A beautiful sunny afternoon in London. Standing at the Starbucks counter, I order a black Americano. The young olive-skinned girl asks my name.
Me (slowly): Simone
Me (slowly, loudly, clearly): Simone. S. I. M. O. N. E.
Smiling and nodding, she takes my money and I move forward to wait for my coffee.
In a few minutes the tall male barista passes me my drink. I look at my name written in black marker on the side of the cup. “Semen”.
Ugh. Not once in the past year has my name been spelt correctly on a coffee cup. And this is the third time I’ve been called Semen. Seriously, Semen.
Tomorrow I leave London. A new home and a new job await me in Australia.
My marriage to England has lasted fifteen years. We’re separating, but I’m not yet filing for divorce. I’m returning to my mistress, but England will always be in my blood.
I love and loathe both.
London has Monsoon, H&M, M&S food, pubs, quality TV. And, crucially, my friends. But it also has the tube, queues, hard water, bad customer service, crowds, and an ingrained culture of inefficiency.
Australia has space, great food, quality cinemas, soft water, open roads, comfort. And, crucially, my family. But it also has an obsession with Aussie Rules, upward inflexions, giant spiders, and an absurd preoccupation with both politics and political correctness.
Both nations delight me. Both nations infuriate me.
One of them knows me as a child, a teenager, a student. The other as an adult, an employee, a professional.
For now I’ve chosen Australia. Because sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. I can’t be sure that they’ll always be glad I came. But as I sit with my coffee typing this, I’m looking forward to my name being familiar. I don’t want to drink another cup of hot semen.
My last month has been a wondrous whirlwind. I saw two impressive musicals; “The Book of Mormon” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and two incredible films; Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “This is the End”.
I went to some great restaurants including Sketch where the toilets are giant egg-shaped pods, and Scott’s where Nigella Lawson was choked by her husband (no choking occurred when I visited).
I frequented familiar bars all over the city, as well as a few new ones – including the fantastical Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair where the toilets have a soothingly refined voice reading “Around the World in Eighty Days” (Sketch’s toilets may be striking but Mr Fogg’s gets top toilet marks … and I don’t dish out that loo-rating willy-nilly).
I had a great date with a young city banker (I never thought I’d entertain a toy-boy), and experienced the best sex I’ve had in years (that delicious indulgence was with someone more age-appropriate, and my sincere thanks to him for that particular memory).
I saw my favourite comedian, Daniel Kitson, perform his sagacious show “After the beginning. Before the end”. And I experienced the hottest summer I’ve ever known in London. In fact I even spent a sweltering afternoon in a park in Brixton … and can now admit that I quite like the place. West will always be Best, but I can occasionally dip my toes in the seedier side of town :).
In summary, I had a great finale.
But most importantly, I said my goodbyes. Whether it was breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, afternoon tea, drinks, an email, a text, a whatsapp, a tweet, a movie, a show, a date … or even sex, I said goodbye to everyone. And I thank all of you for listening to me over the years (my poor, poor colleagues had to listen to so much!). And thanks for making me laugh. I’ll miss you and I’ll see you next summer (yours, not mine … mine starts again in three months: I’ll be a giant freckle by the time you next see me).
Cheers to those I’m saying goodbye to, and those I’m about to greet :).