Didn’t start very encouragingly. Boxed red wine in the station (“it’s like being with a rugby team,” the Man kept saying). An impromptu train switch at Reading. The night already folding in on us. I’d been at work, then caught in a downpour, then at home, then late, then not late (a kindly friend had lied about the train time so I wouldn’t miss it). It was suddenly cold again; what happened to the almost-summer of last week? Another world. I needed gloves. And maybe socks. On the tube a toddler bounced between his mother and his father, every shift on the tracks a new hazard. Many stops later (or maybe not so many; I forgot to keep track), a part of London unidentifiable to me. We walked against the wind. Fulham. You hear so much about Fulham, but until last night it was just another London name.
Past a nursing home. Everything looked suburban. Not expensive but empty, tired, devoid of spirit. Around a corner, a sudden pub. We ate round a long table. Potted shrimp, scotch eggs, salmon, terrine, soft bread. Mashed potatoes, curly kale, slabs of bleeding beef. The Man looked especially happy. “Are you happy?” I said, looking over the top of my red wine glass. “Meat,” he grinned, reminding me of my dad’s 50th birthday (picture: a barbecue pit by the beach, some friends, and nothing to eat but pounds and pounds of tri-tip, which my mother had bought thinking it was the manly food to get). I even got past my fear of meat that hasn’t been cooked so well it looks black and enjoyed the tenderness (a little).
We sat on couches after. Shared an espresso, the Man and I, with a sugar cube. Back on the tube. We all shared no-hot-food-on-the-bus-back-to-Oxford horror stories (there are many). We were on the bus back before midnight. All so civilized. At St. Clements we alighted. As always I felt cold. I had to pee. I’d fallen asleep on the coach and my neck felt bent the wrong way. At home, relief, the sighs after a long night, but also a bewildered and delighted sense that neither of us had once considered screaming in frustration, this time.