Category Archives: August 2013 Posts

Cheers

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: Simone

Her: Shamone?

Me (slowly): Simone

Her: Shemona?

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.

Afterword

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 :).

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The elephant in the room – Part 2

My kitchen and bathroom have been re-tiled by a tradesman who was recommended by a neighbour.  He’s a tall, good-looking Polish man and has done an impeccable job; the recommendation was valid. I pay him and go to work.  An hour later I emerge from the tube and my phone beeps with a text message.

It’s Maciek, the guy I’ve just paid. There’s clearly a problem with either the payment or my flat, and I’m anxious as I open the message.

“I think you’re very attractive and was wondering if you would like to go for a drink sometime?”

I smile at the pleasant surprise – there’s nothing wrong with my flat and my attraction to Maciek is mutual.  I happily agree to a date and three days later we meet for a drink.   We have a pleasant evening together, but I decide I don’t want to see him again.

That date was in 2007.

Maciek and I didn’t go out again but he’s continued to contact me every three months … for the past SIX YEARS.  His last message was (verbatim) “Simone, let me know if I should bugger off for good and delete your phone number as I don’t want to be charged with stalking 🙂 I didn’t reply and haven’t heard from him since.

Wednesday 31st July. It’s my final day at work and I open an email from the estate agent dealing with leasing my flat.

“Hi Simone – I visited your flat last Tuesday with Maciek (MW Contracted Building) who said he’s done some tiling and other work for you before. He quoted £1,300 for painting. I also asked him to include replacement of silicone in the kitchen and bathroom. Please let me know if you would like to go ahead.”

The blood drains from my face as three things simultaneously dawn on me.

  1. This is the Maciek who I went out with six years ago who still contacts me
  2. He was IN my flat last Tuesday
  3. When he was in my flat there was a hot pink vibrator perched barefaced in the middle of my bed

Shock turns to amusement. I smile as I email the estate agent asking them to get a second quote.  I don’t want him coming again (no pun intended).

Afterword

Thursday 1st August, 6pm (the day after the email from the estate agent and 10 days since Maciek was in my home). I exit my flat to go to a comedy gig in Battersea.  When I get to the end of the street a car pulls over and the driver winds down his window.  I walk over to him as he clearly wants directions.

In the seconds that I’m talking to this stranger, a van drives past and slows down.  I glance at the licence place.  It’s Maciek’s van.  Ugh.  Between seeing the vibrator on my bed and me leaning over to talk to a guy in a car, I can’t imagine Maciek’s opinion of me is improving.  I just hope my luck soon does.

The elephant in the room – Part 1

“Simone, we have two potential tenants who would like to view your flat today. Is that okay?”

It’s Tuesday 23rd July. I’m at my desk when I receive this email from the estate agent dealing with leasing my flat.  I’ve been out past midnight for four nights in a row, and will be out again tonight.  In exactly two weeks I depart permanently for Australia to start my new job and I’m exhausted. Physically and emotionally.  My farewell tour has been bittersweet, and has taken its toll.

My flat’s cluttered with twenty boxes. Ninety cubic feet of my possessions will be collected on Friday to commence a twelve week journey across the seas.  In addition to the waiting cargo, my uncharacteristically frantic social life has prevented me from maintaining my housekeeping.  It’s all I can do to be showered, dressed and turn up to work or my next leaving do.

I’ve been keeping myself clean and presentable (just), but my home’s suffering.  My neglected flat isn’t ready for unveiling, but I need tenants so I reply.

 “The place is a complete mess, but you’re welcome to let them in while I’m at work.”

I scan my brain for anything of particular embarrassment. My dirty clothes (inclusive of knickers) are safely in the washing machine, so aside from some scattered (clean) clothes, and some dirty dishes in the sink, I’m pretty sure I’ve nothing of which to be ashamed.  Either way, I’ve given them the green-light so it’s too late to worry.

The work day finishes and I enjoy dinner on the South Bank with a friend and ex-colleague. It’s a hot summer evening and the atmosphere along the Thames is buzzing.  Nostalgia and sentimentality flood me.  I’ll miss the familiar silhouettes of St Paul’s, Big Ben and the London Eye.  I’ll miss my friend.

The tube’s crammed and alive with chatter when I complete yet another goodbye and head home at just after 11pm.

With red eyes and a tired head I unlock my front door and enter my bedroom.  I’d made my bed this morning, as I do every day (no matter how busy I am).  As I take off my heels I look at the clean white linen duvet and gasp.

Sitting right in the centre of the bed: my hot pink vibrator.

No way that wasn’t seen . . .

I laugh as I picture the estate agent and prospective tenants entering the room, locking eyes on the brazen phallus but desperately babbling about anything else “ … So plenty of wardrobe space, nice big window …” and moving rapidly to the next room.

They say you should never leave home without clean underwear. You should also never leave home without putting your sex toys back in the bedside drawer.  Lesson learned.