Yesterday I went into town to see my friend V for a beer in the City. It was strange to be back– starker now that most tourists are gone, and perhaps the lay offs have sobered the place, emptied it out? The shadowless St. Paul’s, now diapered in canvas and scaffolding, and Paternoster Square with its big bronze pineapple crowning the concrete fan of pavement– I always feel misplaced there, like the extra that’s wandered on the wrong set or like I’m the apple in a Magritte painting.
While perching by the churchyard, an extremely handsome, well suited man stopped me and asked the way to Paternoster Square– I told him he was almost there, and pointed, but he walked away as I was explaining about the pineapple– which is really the information you need to know you are actually there. His loss. When people ask me for directions and I actually know them, this makes me feel like a Londoner, almost.
My friend and I met in the Cockpit, our favourite pub on the corner of a little side street. The place is run by two men with magnificent moustaches and no matter how crowded it is I never have to wait too long to be served. I was amused that last night as I stood at the bar some gentleman called to the landlord, There’s a lady at the bar! I think he was trying to do me a favor but there was a tone of wonder in his voice. The pub is usually filled with suits, bankers decompressing from the hard work of bringing the entire world to its knees, toasting each other while looking forward to the next day when they can hold all economic recovery hostage to their whims. But I digress! The place is painted dark red and decorated with steins and paintings and statues of cocks– some of it perhaps from when the tiny, circular bar was actually a cockfighting ring.
V and I joked about the vertiginous spiral staircase to the ladies room. After our third (or was it fourth?) round, they were closing up, putting stools on tables. I ventured up the stairs and as I came down I saw a little door open in the side wall of the flight of stairs– an Alfred Jarry sort of moment (each floor of his flat was cut in half to make another floor)– where the mustachioed proprietor crawled out! I jumped and said, Ha-llo! to cover my embarrassment and he just looked at me like, Lass– you’re squiffy!
On nights like the last, London seems to say: I love you, why don’t you say it back? And then it goes and takes my favourite necklace of 15 years. It must have fallen off on the tube. I feel naked without it.