The Jewel In The Crown

“So you’re not in Bristol with MediaChap then?” Suzie says when I call.
“Obviously not,” I say.
“What happened?”
“He messaged at lunchtime to say lots of people dropped out and the pub had been cancelled and there weren’t going to be many people going and he reckoned it wasn’t worth me making the journey. He called though,” I say. The line crackles: I’m walking through Waterloo station after the play.
“Congratulations on presenting yourself as a spontaneous and intrepid traveller when we know that you’re not,” she says, laughing. “And not even having to prove it or…”
“Oi! Am prepared to go on train trips in this country,” I say.
“Sorry,” she says. “Must remember to ask you more often. So you’re coming to the dinner tonight?” She sounds excited.
“Yeah. But the invite says six o’clock and your message says seven and…”
“I reckon it’s seven,” Suzie says.

“So, none of you see each other, except twice a year when my sister’s in town,” Karen says, across the table. She has the best hair: halfway down her back, perfect tight curls.
“Yeah,” I say, sipping my glass of Chilean Sauvignon.
“Why? You all live in London. And yet you’re greeting each other as if you haven’t met up for twenty years or something,” she says.
It’s true, I think: we’re hugging each new arrival with the fervour of people kept apart for decades.
“Um, well,” I say, “I never go out, except on dates, and we live scattered all over London and…”
“So you’ll meet random blokes but you won’t see your friends?” Karen says, pulling a piece off the naan. It’s the nicest naan I’ve ever eaten: doughy, buttery, dense. Apparently it’s South Indian naan.
“Yeah: well I write about the dates in the blog. So it’s work,” I say, spooning some daal onto my rice. Indian cuisine is my best one, I think.
It’s great to see my chums. This is a lovely event: twelve of my childhood friends eating in an excellent restaurant in town. Resolve to see them more regularly. To be fair: saw some of this lot on Boxing Day, so that’s not too long ago. Maybe will aim to attend a social-event-with-friends once a week. It’s a better use of my socialising time than dinner-or-lunch-with-one-chum, and yet such friend-dates form the majority of my social arrangements.
It’s difficult in the winter of course with the vagaries of Transport for London and the icy winds. Plus Lily’s going to be out of action for a bit with the arrival of the baby, and she usually drives me to events. And other chums have human larvae too, or are incubating them. But am going to attempt to get out and about more now that mood is lifting at long last…


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