28 March 2008

Skinny is the New Skinny

In the news today: Star’s Weight Loss Confession

What, she stopped eating? Took pills? Stopped eating AND took pills? That’s not news, msn! Get off your collective backsides and do some real work. Good God, how hard could it be to work for that faction?

Heath Ledger Death Perturbs 15-Year-Old Girls – Brokeback Mountain Sequel Postponed

Lily Allen Does Nothing of Interest but We Love Her Anyway

Winehouse Outbursts Becoming Predictable?

Mainstream Deigns to Notice Bat for Lashes – Not Too Weird for Hyde Park

It’s Friday, which means one more night on the booze before my houseguests return to Canada and I return to a comfortable diet of veggie dogs and reality television. We’re seeing two Harold Pinter plays and then we’re off to a friend’s for a post-Easter egg hunt. If I put that in writing, we stand every chance of going, too! (This friend and I have polar-opposite schedules it seems, or possess the same amount of apathy about leaving our little nests, but I hold out hope.)

And then it’s packing until our limbs atrophy and fall off, because on Tuesday we move to the new flat! I can’t wait to see what my garden looks like, so that I can begin the process of digging it all up and killing what I can’t. And that, my friends, is what makes a good gardener, at least in my experience. (Help!) I’m thinking that unless I make friends with Jamie Oliver, I’m going to be stuck tending forest-patterned wallpaper, or maybe a plastic fern…

I’m only here because I want to be left alone on my lunch hour. I don’t actually have anything to say. You? Naw, didn’t think so.

27 March 2008

Enuff! Or why I ate Easter dinner from a vending machine

The girls have gone out for the evening and we are taking a break from heckling the television packing, so here I am, at the computer. And there is Bruce, shooting zombies on his new game console. The one he purchased after it was determined that we were broke - maybe because somebody had to go and buy a new dress at Orla Kiely. (Okay, that wasn’t Bruce.)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you that whilst Brussels smells like pee in places and sometimes throws up oversized Tin-Tin characters where you’d least expect them (so, anywhere), it does have its merits, and so much of it was stunning.

Firstly there was our host, Lisa. Lisa is like the girl of your dreams and the best friend you wish you’d had, all rolled into one. On the subway, after she bested the lecherous advances of a cocky seventeen-year-old with bad skin in French, she pointed out a station that always made her out-of-town friends laugh. Indeed, it gave me pause, and I thought I was being a bit juvenile for thinking it, but what’s the fun in living if we can’t scoff at a place called Kunst – Wet?


Possessing a hybrid accent and the comprehension of four or five languages, Lisa translates or interprets for NATO, I forget which, but either way – wow. When we told her about automatic car starters, which allow you to start your ignition from the warmth of your house, she looked momentarily stunned, and then said, “That would save your life if someone planted a bomb.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that stuff like bombs planted in cars only happens in the movies or on television, at least where I come from. Snow on the other hand! That’s some pretty life-threatening stuff.

She took us on a walking tour of the city: a tour that was frequented with stops in some utterly charming pub or restaurant, where we’d buy rounds of beer and devour plates of delicious food (punctuated by espressos). The streets were free of high-season shoppers so we roamed languidly from one district to the next, all night long, watching others and being watched, as it’s not very rude to stare in Belgium. I think all in all, we probably sat in five pubs and three restaurants, ate three meals and drank over ten glasses of beer that night. I put myself in a taxi at eleven and the others carried on until four or five (there simply isn’t a last call in Brussels).

Sunday could have been a write-off, but it was by far my favourite day there. We met up that morning and headed over to an Arabian market for breakfast, where a massive queue forms at a particular cart selling pancakes filled with goat’s cheese and honey or grilled vegetables (or all three!), and steaming glass cups of sweet tea made with fresh mint. We puffed on our pancakes at outdoor tables, listening to the desperate calls of the men trying to sell their fruit before things closed: Deux!Deux!Deux!Deux!

Then we wandered through the antique district, where you can buy furniture, dishware and toys for a pittance (if you can get them home), and the old town, which feels vaguely like the best parts of Paris, Krakow and Rothenberg, deftly stitched together. We paused to read hand-written letters pinned to clotheslines that somebody had strung through one of the squares. A voice behind me said, “Pardon, Madame,” which was my cue to keep walking, but somehow he got my attention. “Three minutes of your time, to list all the places you’ve slept.” “Does it cost anything?” I said, and he laughed. “No, this is for a festival.”

He showed me to a table where strangers sat elbow-to-elbow, scrawling messages amongst sheaves of loose paper and mismatched pens. It took more like five minutes, and I can’t remember what I wrote, but the experience of being tasked with something so random and simple, and then carrying that out in the quiet and warmth of that square reminded me of the better parts of childhood.

I pinned up my list of places I’d slept and did a little dance in front of it until the girls stopped trying to read, and we moved on. It rained a little later, making soup of all those words I bet. We visited too many chocolateres to count, and cooled our aching heads with fresh air and cups of hot Godiva exlixer.

That night I declined meeting them for dinner; I had to be up early to catch my train home. I figured I’d have a nap and then get dressed and go down to the hotel restaurant for a quiet meal alone.

I figured wrong! The hotel restaurant was closed for Easter Sunday, and instead a group of Spanish tourists swarmed the lobby in a shouting mass of confusion. I bought a bag of crisps, a packet of fuzzy peaches and a can of Carling from the vending machine and headed back up to the room to watch a programme on BBC, read the new Hanif Kareshi and basically feel sorry for myself.

The girls came back from dinner to see if I wanted to get a waffle, but it was late and I’d seen and done more than enough for one weekend.

The next morning I got out of bed shortly before the wake-up call that never came, showered, dressed and headed to the subway. I wandered around the crappy train station looking at bad installation art (stuff made from coloured construction tape?!) and then went through Eurostar security. By the time I reached France, it was snowing weevil-sized flakes of snow and I was looking forward to seeing Bruce, and sleeping in my own bed.

25 March 2008

Brussels: A Great Place, If You Don't Have to Go

I made a last-minute decision to go to Brussels with my Canadian visitors, and although Brussels has many merits (some of which I couldn’t shut up about), I think in retrospect I do prefer London.

Their international train station alone would put you off the city forever, just as an example. For design and efficiency, I give it an F, for: Fuck! Where Are the Fucking Toilets?!

Signs are usually pretty easy to follow because they rely on symbols rather than language to direct you. This is why they are called signs, and not instructions. If the train station in Brussels had come with a set of instructions, I would not have had to wander in painful circles for the better part of an hour, though, because their signage sucks monkey balls.

Getting off the train, you can either go left (into a maze of shops, cafes and more signs) or right (into a maze of signs and escalators to platforms). My instincts told me to go right, so right I went. Right past the only toilet I was able to find after a harrowing hour with a plaintive bladder, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Information signs only lead to maps that serve to tell you what you already know: You Are ‘Here,’ hopelessly lost in the most poorly-designed train station on Planet Earth, where somewhere is hidden a toilet. Happy hunting! Flemish backpackers and Dutch families aimlessly covered the same square meter, and although I couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other, I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of what I was saying to Jesus Christ, who I haven’t welcomed into my heart, but who usually gets the brunt of my abuse when things start to go terribly wrong.

Here was the dilemma: the only sign I could find that included the male/female toilet symbol was posted next to an arrow and the platform numbers 3 and 4.

Those doors, on either side of that set of escalators: were those the toilets? No, they’re locked, and the escalators go to platforms 5 and 6.

So back to the sign I went, thereafter following the invisible sightline of its arrow, which eventually landed me at a lift. Above the lift were the male/female symbols, an upward-pointing arrow accompanying the male symbol and a downward-pointing arrow accompanying the female symbol. Finally, some progress!

Except that the lift only had one button – an arrow pointing up.

In desperation, I got onto the lift anyway, which took me to the platforms above the station. I walked for a very long time in silence until I came to the next toilet sign. It was located above a different lift. Men’s toilets: downward arrow – women’s toilets: upward arrow. The only button for the lift pointed down this time. I pushed the button, got into the lift, and went down. The doors opened and I found myself back on ground-level, in front of the same lift I’d gotten into earlier.

Feeling utterly dismayed, I retraced my steps to where I exited the Eurostar and went left this time. I walked for what seemed like a very long time, deep inside the maze of shops, until I found the international sign for Toilets, and an arrow. I lost track of the sign for a while, beginning instead to take note of all the puddles that dotted the station floor - puddles that might have resembled spilled drinks in a perfect world, a world where toilets were not obscured by riddles like some nightmarish, toiletless Wonderland – when finally I caught up with it again near the arrivals lounge.

Ten minutes later, I was back at the first lift, facing the same dilemma. Female toilet: down. Button to the lift: up. There wasn’t even a stairwell to retreat to - just more lifts that took you up and ever away from the elusive basement-level toilets.

Finally I braved a cafĂ© that looked, for all the world, like it would never have a toilet. At the top of a set of stairs, I caught sight of a door emblazoned with a loafer. Against all hope, I bought a bottle of Evian and said to the girl, “Est-ce-que vous avez un salle de bain?” to which she replied, “Toilettes? Oui, la bas” and pointed at the set of stairs.

And after practically flattening myself between the pink-slipper-emblazoned door and the stall of that very small toilet, I asked the Lord Jesus Christ to please wait outside for me, or find his own damn stall.

24 March 2008

Chocolates are not the only fruit

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The moment between wanting something very badly and then getting that something.

What is your greatest fear?
That everything I do is futile because for every me there are a few hundred thousand (million?) others and we’re all going to die one day.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My morbidity?

What is the trait you deplore most in yourself?
My reactionary nature – it’s forever getting me into trouble and it makes me seem unstable.

What living person do you most despise?
This girl at work who looks a bit piggy and is very smug and unfriendly for reasons I’ve yet to discern (maybe she won a blue ribbon for scratching her own name in the dirt).

What is your greatest extravagance?
On a semi-regular basis, it’s Orla Kiely. Her dresses are too expensive for the likes of me but I can’t seem to care.

What is your current state of mind?
A bit out of sorts – I’ve spent the last three days in Brussels and now have to think about moving flats, all the while trying to be a good host for my Canadian houseguests. My routine is completely mangled.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

On what occasion do you lie?
At work (no problem, I can/know how to do that).

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
That it’s mutable and completely unreliable.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

What and where were you happiest?
Pick most times between today and nearly two years ago and you’ll have your answer.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be?
I would be less anxious.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to play a musical instrument very well.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Escaping the trappings of small-town histrionics; stepping out of a psychopathic ego and into the real world.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
That’s a silly question.

Where would you like to live?
Muswell Hill, but we’re incapable of packing.

What is your most treasured possession?
Don’t really have one.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

What is your favorite occupation?
I met a girl who translates for NATO. She has a work-issued gas mask in her desk drawer and a sign on her door that reads: No bombs No bombs No bombs. That seems pretty cool.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Troilus, because he was such a dufus!

What are your favorite names?
Beryl, Astrid, Greta, Max (they sound like names belonging to people who’d want nothing to do with me)

What is it that you most dislike?
The sounds made by people who eat indelicately.

How would you like to die?

What is your motto?
If it feels bad, don’t do it (too often).

19 March 2008

Rip it up and paste it back together

After I was told off by a superior and then invited to a meeting at fire o’clock (that’s 16:00, for those of you in cushy, government-funded roles), I was already digging a shallow grave for my short-lived media career. As it turns out, they only wanted my input on something, so. Thanks to corporate schizophrenia for keeping a gal on her toes.

All of these things that I’ve been excited about are finally coming to fruition - all at once - which has turned me into a shivering, cuticle-biting ball of flu-medicated anxiety rather than the party monster metamorphosis I was going for. This means I’ve been drinking a glass of wine at dinner, passing out before nine and begging forgiveness of my Canadian houseguests for being such a crap host.

So far, I’ve discovered that The Mighty Boosh does not interface well with jetlag, and that not everyone finds the Old Kent Road Tesco experience to be a harrowing one. Also, if you mention the word ‘porn’ in an email, the IT team monitors your stuff for some time after. Go figure.

Finally, RIP Anthony Minghella and Arthur C Clarke. Bruce says these things come in threes, so I’m designing a foil-covered crash helmet and Nerf kit for Mr. Greenaway, provided I can persuade him to, you know. Put them on please?

My line manager is looking at me in the manner of one who expects you to respond immediately to their emails over your lunch hour. And I’m looking dead on at my screen, in the manner of one who says You can go to hell and die, that’s what you can do. And it’s turning out brilliantly!

13 March 2008

Bon voyage

The word on everyone’s lips these days: Spring. I don’t think that season exists here though. Spring is when the temperature begins to rise above zero, and then frozen things melt. We don’t normally have temperatures below freezing, hence nothing to melt. Once it gets warmer, things will turn greener, I guess. But carry on with your Spring fever, I don’t mind! It does a body good to be in such close proximity to seasonally-derived exhilaration.

This week has felt like one big long nightmare: the kind you can’t wake up from, because it’s where you work. I’ve gone from holy prodigy to impure infidel in the space of a month. This is precisely why I’m against status; the good townspeople need an idol they can decorate in sin and then tear to shreds. It’s called civilization, and it’s why we go around feeling smug in our ugly plastic Crocs (well, not me, but).

Regardless, I’m glad I got it over with early, because now I can settle into a comfortable state of peevish reluctance to do anything, at least until I quit or get fired.

I should really spend my lunch hour away from my desk from now on, because invariably someone will remember me and then start a little notice-me!-dance in my peripheral vision on the off-chance I might engage them in an impromptu meeting, I guess because they have nothing better to do on their lunch hour. Go away, sad colleagues!

ON the plus side, we have a nice weekend planned around bowling, a modest gathering and another houseguest from Canada (two, actually), which will take us to nearly April, when we move into our new flat. Then it’s Norway, another visitor and ATP. It’s time to start focusing on the parts of my life I’m actually bothered about and let the rest drift back out to sea.

11 March 2008

From meme to youyou

Thanks, Lass.

1. Who was your first prom date?

I like where you’re going with that. But I didn’t go to prom. I think we called it after-grad, and I would have taken my then-boyfriend Tim, who I fell out with almost immediately, for punching him jokingly (though not) in the stomach before we got onto the secret bus that took us to the secret bar that was secretly rented out for us to secretly die of boredom inside of. All night long, baby.

2. Do you still talk to your first love?


3. What was your first alcoholic drink?

White Rum, and I only drank it to tell a boy what I really thought of him (turns out it’s still considered mean if you say it when you’re really drunk).

4. What was your first job?

A kiosk that sold grilled Japanese food, in a food court, in a mall. I sliced frozen chicken breasts all morning and rang up orders during the lunch rush. Sometimes I stirred the chicken on the grill.

5. What was your first car?

Technically, it was my sister’s hand-me-down Cougar, but I think she was just using me for my parking space, as I didn’t have a license and had no intention of ever driving it. She sold it on me a year later.

6. Who was the first person to text you today?

I like where you’re going with this too. It was my husband. In fact, he was the only person to text me today.

7. Who is the first person you thought of this morning?

Other than my growing awareness of self? Bruce.

8. Who was your first grade teacher?

Madame Chauldice, I think. I don’t remember a thing about her though.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?

My dad flew us to Swift Current, though we didn’t land - we just circled the grain elevator and flew back again.

10. Who was your first best friend, and are you still friends with him/her?

That would be Chad, and no, we haven’t been friends since we were 11, when the sad truth about our differing genders occurred to one or both of us.

11. What was your first sport played?

I’m still waiting to do that.

12. Where was your first sleepover?

My childhood was one long sleepover. My sister’s maybe?

13. Who was the first person you talked to today?


14. Whose wedding were you in the first time?

My sister’s. Is this an invitation to reminisce or something? Um, okay. I wore a horrible itchy white dress and was pursued by an overly friendly stranger whose attention scared me so badly that I ended up hiding in the toilet for most of the reception.

15. What was the first thing you did this morning?

Asked Bruce what time it was because it looked much lighter than seven.

16. What was the first concert you ever went to?

It was something at the Black Market, which was basically a stage in a basement beneath a Greek restaurant downtown. It had a makeshift bar but you needed a bracelet to drink. I think it was Funk ‘n Stein, actually.

17. What was your first tattoo or piercing?

I like where you’re going with this. It was MY EARS. The end.

18. What was the first foreign country you went to?

The United States of McDonalds. I guess that’s not strictly foreign since we shared a continent, regardless. Otherwise, it was Holland.

19. What was your first run-in with the law?

I was in a car with my friend and two boys we knew, driving aimlessly when suddenly the police pulled us over. We thought it was because we were high, but actually, there’d been a robbery in the neighborhood and the suspects fit our description (four kids in a white vehicle). The story grows less interesting each time I tell it though, so I’ll skip the details

20. When was your first detention?

I brought a flare gun to school, which accidentally went off in my locker and caused like this minor…oh wait, no. That was The Breakfast Club.

21. What was the first state you lived in?

I like where you’re going with this. But fuck off.

22. Who was the first person to break your heart?

James. He left me for his best friend, who was boring to look at, but romantically tragic because she had an abusive boyfriend and yet never stopped smiling.

23. Who was your first roommate?

My then-boyfriend Aidan and my friend Shauna.

24. Where did you go on your first limo ride?

I’ve never been in a limo, strangely. I had the opportunity to ride in one when I was an in-patient but I was out on a day pass that afternoon. That is what they do with the mentally ill in Canada – they pile them into a limo and send them to a neighboring town for ice cream.

10 March 2008

Death and natural imagery make for bad dreams (and posts)

Blahdiwhat you say? I don’t know. Sorry about that.

I have no time for this space anymore. I only have so many stones with which to anchor the unruly tarpaulin of my existence and this stone just isn’t big enough I’m afraid. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever said though, so let’s let that particular bygone be gone immediately and move swiftly ahead to something equally esoteric but possibly less annoying.

Watch Your Step

I’ve formed this habit of waking up about twenty minutes after I’ve fallen asleep with one thought in my head: O. M. G! I am going to die one day!

I mean, duh. But for some reason, that certainty is only a revelation when it occurs in the terrifying lucidity of half-sleep, and my subconscious will play it out in many different ways until my conscious mind goes OKAY, I GET IT: ‘I AM GOING TO DIE ONE DAY.’ CAN I PLEASE GO BACK TO SLEEP NOW?

But no, I have an image of little antelopes being driven off a sheer, planetary cliff-face by a relentless conveyor belt of death. And THAT’S not a very relaxing idea, so.

So so so, I’m already behind on this day. And it is raining so much rain that London looks like one big aquarium of miserable fish. Back to the drawing board.

The End

(But for how long?)

09 March 2008


The past, be it near or far, isn’t the relative distance between an event experienced and our perception of that experience. It’s just as present in our lives as a book in the other room. The only difference between the past and a book in the other room is that the past remains inaccessible, behind a curtain; or petrified, like stone.

Distance is more like the past than the past is – real distance, or that which takes place elsewhere concurrently, is more inaccessible than the past, because one must rely on imagination (rather than memory) to transport us there. To instantly find oneself anywhere other than where one could reasonably be found in a matter of moments (say one thousand miles away) and hear its sounds, however mundane (children calling to each other outdoors; a dog barking; a refrigerator chugging to a halt), would be to experience the divine.

The divine isn’t another country where drifters aspire to travel one day; the divine is only that which exists on the opposite side of possibility.

06 March 2008

It's official

This morning I woke up a few minutes before the alarm we didn’t set, got into the bath, put on my clothes, crawled back into bed, buried my face in Bruce’s chest and told him I couldn’t do it today. I say that on a semi-regular basis, but there must have been something in it this time, because Bruce told me to take the day off.

So after emailing work, I spent the morning and afternoon doing exactly what I felt like doing, which was a big fat nothing. I feel so much better for it, like I could take on the world tomorrow (which they’re sort of expecting from me) and not spend my whole weekend hiding under the bed with the cats. There is nothing like an impromptu day off.

Bruce called me from Trafalgar square to say that our estate agent called to say that our reference checks went through and our flat is ready to move into April first. That is a massive relief. I’m so excited I could jump up and down. But I’m reserving my energy for tomorrow.

05 March 2008

x365: 21 of 365 - Chris K

We laughed at you, Tex and me. I’m glad you’re a fuck-up, and that your ex-girlfriend married a scientologist. Go pass out on a Salisbury steak, you waste of screen time.

In no particular order

A list of books we're giving away on freecycle

Allen Carr – Packing it in the Easy Way
Various - Philosophy, Society and Politics
Jake Arnott – True Crime
Ali Smith – The Accidental
Willy Russell – The Wrong Boy
Philip Kapleau – The Wheel of Life and Death
Descartes – Philosophical Writings
Descartes – Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Hugo in 3 Months – Portuguese
C.G.Jung – The Undiscovered Self
Leibniz – Philosophical Writings
Stuart Hampshire – Spinoza
Bertrand Russell – The Problems of Philosophy
A.J. Ayer – The Central Questions of Philosophy
Various - What Philosophy Does
Chambers Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions
Russell Miller – The House of Getty
Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections
Anthony O’Hear – What Philosophy is
John King – Headhunters
Kate Christensen – In the Drink
Various - A Dictionary of Philosophy
The Photo Book
Davies – An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
Howard Sounes – Fred & Rose
Perry Groves - We All Live in a Perry Groves World
Shawn Levy – Ratpack Confidential
Alex Garland – The Beach (first edition)
Godfrey Vesey – Philosophy in the Open
Caroline Sullivan – Bye Bye Baby
Iaian Banks – Dead Air
Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
Nick Hornby – How to Be Good
Jason Burke – Al Qaeda
Peter Carey – True History of The Kelly Gang
Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking
Elizabeth Wurtzel – Prozac Nation
Naomi Klein – Fences and Windows
Nick Hornby – About a Boy
Haruki Murakami – Sputnik Sweetheart
Irvine Welsh – Ecstasy
Christopher Isherwood – Goodbye to Berlin
Patricia Duncker – Hallucinating Foucault
John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meaney
Nick McDonell – Twelve
Jeanette Winterson – Written on the Body
Craig W. Thomas – Losing My Religion
Jeanette Winterson – The Power Book
Calvin Pinchin – Issues in Philosophy
A.L.Kennedy – Now that you’re back
Alex Garland – The Beach
Reg Thompson – Dear Charlie: Letters to a Lost Daughter
Inazo Nitobe – Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Chuck Palahniuk – Diary
Manners for Men
Paul Theroux – Sir Vidia’s Shadow
Primo Levi – The Periodic Table
George Orwell – Homage to Catatonia
James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce – Dubliners
Georges Bataille – Story of the Eye
Bizarro Postcards
Robertson Davies – Fifth Business
Roger-Pol Droit – 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life
Junot Diaz – Drown
Peter Carey – Bliss
Kathy Acker – Bodies of Work
Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things
Evelyn Waugh – Black Mischief
Rudyard Kipling – Just So Stories
Alan Paton – Cry, The Beloved Country
Iaian Pears – An Instance of the Fingerpost
Iain Banks – Complicity
A.L. Kennedy – Now that you’re back
Sight and Sound Magazine (7 issues)

04 March 2008

In a future world

Gosh, I am writing myself into oblivion. It’s true. The more I write online, the less of me I see there. I don’t mean me as in the me you see when we read quietly on trains, glancing up to watch the countryside whip past us. But me as in: the words and ideas are all outgrowing the simplicity of what I have. And they aren’t even growing like some beautiful plant; they just spread flat, gleaming dully, like laminate.

I wish I could write somewhere, anywhere, else. All these trillions of words in their galaxy of binary code and screen pixels block out the true, lost faces of stars. Just look into them and imagine that I’m there among them somehow.

02 March 2008

All's well that ends in Muswell

Yesterday we traveled to Muswell Hill to pay the remainder of our deposit, and because I wanted to see the place we’re moving to in less than a month. When we saw it being advertised, we felt it was better for Bruce to go and see it immediately (my job’s pretty inflexible) than risk losing it to somebody else. A few days later, he was so unsure of his decision that I was beginning to worry that we'd be living in a very posh broom closet.

The current tenants - a couple maybe five years older than us – were still home when we showed up, but they put to rest any doubts he might have had as they described the hydrangeas, lavender and honeysuckles that would begin to bloom in spring, extolled the virtues of the area and expressed their contentment with the flat overall. The only reason they’re leaving is because they can’t afford to actually buy property there. And who could? A flat like ours would cost a quarter of a million pounds (we looked it up).

The flat is smaller than the one we live in currently, but it’s chock-full of character and is nested in a grandiose house on a very pretty street. We had a walk around the commercial district, situated within a five minute walk from our front door, and were blown away by what we saw – specialty food and clothing shops, dozens of different types of restaurants, cafes, charity shops, pubs, book stores (one just for children), patisseries, three banks (one of them ours), a pet shop, two hairdressers, two cathedrals, two upper-crust grocers and a small first-run cinema. And that was only one arm (there are three, maybe four roads radiating from its center).

The youth there do not walk on their toes, their necks craning to see who or what might be stalking them from the shadows; instead, blushing young boys carried bouquets of flowers for their mothers (it’s Mother’s Day today), young couples strolled with prams and without, and every single person had an expression approximating ecstasy, though possibly I was projecting.

It all reminds me of the area I lived in before I left home, except vaster and more quaint, resembling certain parts of Vancouver as well (call it the hills and the chilled-out Starbucks-goers). There are even a few unexpected delights: a pub inside a converted stone cathedral and a breathtaking view from one of the spokes off Muswell Hill Broadway.

We had an early dinner at La Porchetta (situated minutes from where we’ll be living) and saw something we’d never seen before: diners jumped out of their seats as orchestral-sized music was suddenly piped from the speakers. Around the corner came four staff members - one playing a trumpet, one hiding a candlelit bowl of ice cream behind a menu and one singing happy birthday to a ten-year-old girl with black hair. The forth man twirled a massive disc of thin pizza dough, which he dropped resolutely on the girl’s head, where it fainted, sticking to her face, hair and neck.

And I revised my plans for Bruce’s thirty-seventh birthday.

Overall, it was a very good decision, and I owe Bruce my eternal happiness yet again. As do his family – they are now no more than a 45 minute drive away, which means we can see them more often. They didn’t really believe us when we said our visits would technically be longer if we moved to Canada, and I guess we didn’t really believe it either. They’re good people, and I’m happy for the chance to get to know them even better.

Speaking of family, I should really call my parents. They’re moving to a different apartment at the end of the month too, and probably still feeling a bit sad about our decision to stay here. Ironically, though, my family never feels closer than when we are furthest from one another.