One afternoon last week I sat in the sunshine for an hour sizzling gently; no such luck during the bank holiday weekend just gone, although it was supposedly above average for the time of year. (Does the average include measurements from the ice age? I have no idea. I sometimes imagine that there’s a man with a moustache in a basement – er, a man in a basement with a moustache – er, a moustachioed man in a clean-shaven basement – who daily adds a new row of temperature readings to a stupidly large spreadsheet and distributes updated averages to Her Majesty’s Dominions, where urchins in flat caps scurry between miserable grey concrete carbuncles retying calculation-aiding knots in civil servants’ beards, enabling localised variants of Michael Fish to tell us that it’s a bit parky for the time of year. I also sometimes imagine that I imagine too much.)
This bank holiday weekend brought a trip to London. The magic combination of ‘weekend’ and ‘bank holiday’ ensured that the Cambridge/King’s Cross train transmogrified into a bus near Stevenage and the Northern Line (Bank branch) was running a restricted service (no trains at all). So, since I was seeing a friend in Walthamstow (which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t), I trained to Tottenham Hale instead and tubed to Walthamstow Central for about 1.45. I’m far too embarrassed to mention the off-by-one error I made when touching in my Oyster (another non-euphemism); look, I’m left-handed, OK?
Adam, my chum, met me at the station. We had a cup of tea in an olde Englishe coffee shop (paninis, overpriced modern art for sale and traditional East European immigrant staff) and then wandered through Walthamstow market (“Pahnd a bowl! Evryfin a pahnd!”) and a generic shopping centre (Grafton + hijab). Adam was busy packing to move across Walthamstow (not a euphemism) so I was soon bundled back on the tube to Kentish Town via Euston (not a euphemism), the venue for the main event of the weekend: Chef’s flat-warming.
Chef has bought a compact ground-floor apartment in an estate a few minutes from the tube. The previous owners were apparently two gentlemen intimately familiar with the insides of an Ikea showroom (euphemism). To give it that homely feel Chef has hung an LCD TV on the wall (he doesn’t know much about art but he knows what he likes).
Chef and I were soon joined by Chris, Melanie and Louise (who drove down) and Andy (who trained it a few hours behind me). We absorbed as many of the sun’s feeble bank holiday rays as we could before adjourning to the living room where Chef and Chris provided a Director’s Half-Cut commentary to this week’s Doctor Who episode. Then Cormac, Steph and Keith arrived and the evening dissolved into games, pizzas, alcohol and series two of Extras. (Chris’s photos.)
I think we climbed into assorted sleeping bags at about 3.30, scattered across various rooms. Approximately five hours later Chef rose a toute vitesse and found the bathroom occupied, so he opened the front door and performed a traditional Bulimian opera on his doorstep instead. In several movements.
Chris, Melanie and Louise went home shortly afterwards, once Chef had washed away his vomitary moat and they could leave without performing the long jump. I went back to sleep; I suspect they were home before I woke up again.
Andy and I left at about 10.30. The journey home was smooth until Seven Sisters, when the driver announced that all services between Cambridge and Tottenham Hale were going to Seven Sisters instead, for a laugh probably. Sadly the announcement was a bit garbled and was made about a second before the doors shut, leaving us no time to comprehend it and escape. At Tottenham Hale the truth emerged, we reversed our journey, waited an age for the next tube back to Seven Sisters, and then stood on the platform there for half an hour waiting for the next Cambridge train.
While we were waiting a gabble of about thirty schoolgirls turned up; the dawn chorus but with added ringtones. They flocked around the platform then perched on the next train, which was for Hertford West. A few minutes after peace had once more descended some stragglers turned up; we could tell they were supposed to be with the schoolgirl party as they yah-ok’d in a similar patois and, well, we’d earwigged on a phone conversation a bit earlier when they’d said they were lost. Platform 2, they’d been told, and so here they were. They asked a fellow traveller when “the next train to Liverpool” was. After checking that they meant Liverpool Street and not yer actual Liverpool, they were directed to Platform 1. Turns out that all those schoolgirls were now heading in entirely the wrong direction.
I laughed in vicious, cynical amusement and ranted at Andy about kids today, not one brain cell between them all, etc. Then I remembered that Andy once took the wrong half of the King’s Cross/King’s Lynn splitter train and ended up deep in the fens while actually trying to get to Liverpool. I felt vaguely guilty for a moment and then decided it made it even funnier.
The Cambridge train we eventually boarded was full, so we stood for an hour as various Danes, who appeared to make up most of the carriage, clogged the aisles, drank beer and skåld each other (not a euphemism).