Category Archives: London

Sex note

A motel room in Bendigo, Tuesday morning.  It’s a cold day and I put my on coat in readiness to check-out.  It’s time to get to my meeting.  I see a note wedged under my door.  It must have been placed there last night or before my alarm went off this morning.  I pull it out and unfold it, presumably it’s from the staff advising me of checkout times or passing on a phone call.

Unless I misread the chemistry when I checked in, that’s not from the staff.

I turn the page …

 

And they say romance is dead.

Sadly I’ll not meet the Shakespearean lyricist whose sweet words have melted my heart.  I’m leaving.  What could have been on Tuesday night will never be.  Sigh.  Yet again I’ve missed out on a man who is clearly The One.

At reception I hand in my room key and inform the woman of the note.  She’s shocked, “And he’s used that horrible notepad, he didn’t even write it on nice paper”!  I’m not sure that would have made the difference.  But I’m not fully up to speed with Australian courtship and standards here may be lower.

As I drive to work, I’m bemused at the thinking of the man who wrote the message. It’s not a short note.  It’s not a single sentence, or a few words.  When Mr Motel decided to contact me this is the approach he took.  At no point while writing did it cross his mind “Maybe this isn’t a good idea …”.  No.  He pulled out a pen and paper, he wrote the first page … then he turned it and KEPT WRITING.  Then he ripped the page out, folded it, and slipped it under the door.  Through all that, he didn’t think “This is utterly ludicrous. What am I doing?!” He had focus and ploughed on … logic and rationale firmly discarded.

My main response to this incident?  Aside from laughter, it made me a little homesick for London.  The city where being sexually accosted is a weekly, if not daily, event for young women.  Black British men in particular are very open in approaching ladies who take their fancy.  Muslim men are equally brazen, though tend to use a different style.  White British men need a pint or 10 before their cheeky chappy (no euphemism) inevitably emerges.  Australians are a little shyer, a little less confident, and a lot more prudish.  It’s been a while since I encountered men letting their weird sexual thoughts blurt out, uncensored, and the amusement that can provide.

I doubt Mr Motel was aiming for bemusement and nostalgia, but I don’t really know if even Mr Motel knew what he was hoping to achieve.  Certainly the absence of his name or phone number indicates that he was hoping for anonymity … and his wife not finding out.

Afterword

Yesterday I voted in the Australian election (less exciting or important as the big vote of the last 10 days – Brexit). As I walked into the polling booth a man rushed up next to me “I imagine you’ll be voting for the Australian Sex Party”! 1) Ugh. 2) Yes, there is such a party.

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Black Pudding

26 January, 8am, Australia.  Bacon’s sizzling, eggs are frying, mushrooms and a token slice of tomato are already cooked.  The feature item, black pudding, is proudly occupying its own frypan.

It looks like a horse-shoe shaped poo ...

It looks like a horse-shoe shaped poo – or (while on that topic) a toilet seat …

No work this morning – it’s “Australia Day”.  The day this nation celebrates in patriotism that could shame America.

It’s a significant date for another reason.  On 26 January 2004, I became a British citizen.

But my Britishness was stirring many, many years before then …

When I was four, a doctor deemed me to be iron deficient.  His prescription?  A dose of lots of red meat, ideally black pudding.  It was a treatment that only an Australian doctor in the early 80s would make (“Feed the girl MEAT!!”), but it put a bit of colour into my translucent cheeks and gave me enough energy to stop my Victorian-esque fainting spells.

I was subsequently fed copious amounts of black pudding and I happily devoured it like a little vampire.

It looks like a massive horse-shoe shaped poo and it prompts turned up noses, and scrunched up faces expressing disgust.  But I love black pudding’s dark, mushy goodness.  And my love was rekindled when I arrived in England and discovered it was a staple in English breakfasts.  It perfectly blends my Australian childhood with my adult love of Britain.

The Black Pudding cafe

The Black Pudding cafe

My only criticism of the delicious, solidified fluid is that I’d prefer its traditional and more accurate name – blood sausage – to be used.  How is it in any way a pudding?  It’d be a cruel trick to serve it to a child with ice-cream and call it dessert …

Australia hasn’t changed much in 30 years, but it has changed in the public’s demand for black pudding.  The supermarket shelves no longer stock it.  And I’ve looked in every supermarket I’ve entered during the last 17 months.  The town where I do my shopping even has a café AND a restaurant calledBlack Pudding” … but neither actually serve black pudding.  Why taunt me?  I had to arrange for a delicatessen, “Bitemedeli,” to order it.  Apparently they receive “about one request per year” for it.  I’m willing to bet that’s a Brit.

So today, on my anniversary, I cook the blessed squishy sausage and it sits with crowning glory on my full English breakfast.  A symbol of my past, and a nod to the country I love.  The schizophrenic, push-pull, emotional tug-o’-war is the curse of the ex-pat.

Afterword

1. For readers who are relatively new to my blog, I’ve written about Australia Day in a previous post called “Foreign”.

2. My mother passed my prescription for black pudding to my babysitter, Jillian, who fed it to me for years – again, for new readers, I’ve written a previous post about Jillian called (funnily enough) “Jillian“.

3. There is now such a thing called vegetarian black pudding made with beetroot juice.  Jesus Christ.  That should be retitled vegetarian blood sausage and made with the blood of vegetarians.

Twenty

Friday 10am.  I’m walking up the steps to the crowded hall where the presentation will be held and I spot him. My heart jumps.  

We’d met in the café last Tuesday.  I was with a friend, he was with three.  Our two groups talked for a bit – all of us fresh to the area and looking for new friends.  I discovered he’d be at this presentation today, but that doesn’t stop my heart pounding.   

I’m certain he spots me.  His voice becomes louder.  Is that for my benefit?

Across the pool of people he waves hello.  I wave back.

The crowd shuffles into the hall and I sit about 10 rows behind him and his friends.  The 90minute presentation is white noise.  My focus is on him.

The presentation finishes, the crowd applauds.  We exit and through the hordes he finds his way to me.

“Hello! Um, we’re going to the pub tonight – to that comedy thing they’ve got on … you should come”.

“Yeah, Anna and I were talking about that yesterday – we’re definitely going”.

10 hours later I see him in the pub.  He’s drunk too much.  Nerves?  We chat and the five of us decide to walk from the pub to the local bar.

It’s a hot night and the bar’s packed.  I sit outside.  He sits with me.  Our friends go inside the bar.  Hours pass.  We walk to the bridge and talk in the dark while looking over the still lake.  The lights from the bar reflect in the dark blue water, and the muffled music beats in the background – pulsating louder when patrons open the door.

I turn around.  He kisses me.  We spend the next three years together.

That evening took place two weeks from today in 1995.  My first year of university.  A life of hope on the horizon.

I was 17 and a virgin.  Literally and metaphorically.

I’d not been in a plane, I didn’t have an email account, a mobile phone (let alone an iPhone), a driver’s licence.  I’d not even used a fax machine.

I hadn’t met my best friend, tasted a decent glass of wine, stayed in a 5-Star hotel.  I hadn’t heard of Debenhams or Selfridges, used the tube, experienced the otherworldly bliss of an English summer evening spent drinking with friends in Hyde Park.

I hadn’t been called recalcitrant or lugubrious … and had to look up what they meant.

I didn’t know what a Burns Supper was, or Guy Fawkes night … or Eurovision or Notting Hill Carnival.  I didn’t drink coffee.  I pronounced the “z” in Ibiza.

A lot changes in twenty years.

I’m 37 and no longer a virgin.   I’ve experienced enough things to have forgotten many of them.  My labyrinthine memories are textured and colourful.  They’re my stories and I read them with pleasure, pride, sadness, embarrassment, warmth, and amusement.  I love them.

In the next twenty years more stories will be told to me.  People I know will die, and new people will come into my life.  I might lose a limb, get cancer, change careers, win the lottery.  I will experience periods of extreme grief, and moments of exhilaration.  I will hurt people and people will hurt me.  I will make some people laugh and some people will make me laugh.

I don’t know what my stories will be by 2035, but I know the time will pass quickly.  Or maybe it won’t.  A heart attack may strike me down on a warm night in 2028.  I might die tackling a terrorist in a hostage situation in 2021.

There are stories yet to come.

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 :).

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.