Happy festive season to you! Felices fiestas!
As I roast sweatily in humid BA I hear tales of truly awful weather in the UK which make me wince. My poor parents live in a village in the middle of buttf**k nowhere and are walking for hours to get supplies, my Grandfather has been stuck in his house for two weeks and is near the bottom of the emergency supplies he stows in his deep freeze and Grouse is so fed up of the cold that he is refusing to leave the house. (Although that is not particularly odd; Grouse is an extraordinarily lazy dog who has to be forcefully removed from his bed when it is raining.)
Anyway, in spite of the disgusting weather you seem to be having back in Blighty I cannot help but fantasise wildly about the lovely, cosy, fire-lit, mulled-wine-flavoured time that I would be having were I at home. Here is my fantasy.
I would arrive back to Heathrow to a tearful greeting from my immediate family and boyfriend. I’m not sure who this boyfriend is but in this fantasy he is handsome and accomplished and he handles my expensive leather luggage manfully. (Somewhere between Buenos Aires and London my grubby travelling rucksack has become an Italian leather three-piece.)
We all set off to Robinson towers, chatting gleefully about my amazing suntan and wild nights dancing under the stars in glamorous BA nightclubs with rich and sexual polo players. My boyfriend doesn’t mind this, obviously. He’s not the jealous sort.
We arrive back at Robinson towers to roaring fires and a twinkling Christmas tree; carols from the King’s College choir are playing and a veritable mountain of presents spills out from underneath our mighty Norwegian Spruce. I go up to my room and discover that I have hundreds of items of clothing that I had forgotten about. Soft cashemeres, beautiful jeans, warm toasty boots and calfskin gloves.
I take the train to London, ready for a hero’s welcome. Naturally all of my friends are lined up waving at the ticket barriers at Paddington; we hug and weep and laugh together before being swept off through cheery, festive streets full of happy people. I think we are probably in a series of chauffeur-driven cars. We rock up at my favourite Islington pub, which I shall not name because even though they serve the best roasts in the world their staff are so unbelievably rude that I find myself unable to give them the satisfaction of a Marie Claire big up. We sit by the fire; a jolly, laughing group of us, tucking into lovely wine and then the thing I have longed for six lonely months: A GREAT BIG ROAST. A MASSIVE ROAST, with turkey and cranberry and pigs in blankets and crispy potatoes and parsnips and beautiful tender leeks and broccoli and sprouts and carrots and THICK STEAMING WINEY GRAVY and a huge crispy yorkshire pudding even though yorkshire puddings do not belong in any self-respecting turkey roast. Bread sauce, mint sauce, cheese sauce, any frigging sauce. I don’t care. I WANT THE WORKS. Then comes some sort of crumble with thick, fragrant custard AND cream AND ice cream AND a ginormous platter of chocolates and amazing coffee and liqueurs.
I think I need to stop now. My mouth is watering. I just finished a rather uninspiring lunch of salad, quinoa and bondiola. There were no laughing chattering friends in a cosy pub setting, just me sitting on my own in my apartment, looking resentfully out at the boiling sun and wishing I didn’t have work to do.
My parents probably don’t even have a Christmas tree yet, given the fact that they are focusing most of their energy on basic survival; there will be no presents underneath because all of their savings have been blown on my Mum’s ticket over here in January and I stole the Carols from Kings CD last year. I do not have a handsome boyfriend, leather luggage or even a flight ticket to the UK. And the chances of me being able to afford one sodding roast potato in London these days are slim.
So I will instead bullet point my more realistic fantasies.
1. Go to Boots. I’m sorry, I know that is pathetic, but I cannot tell you how much I miss Boots. It has GOOD PRODUCTS. Products that actually work and cost a sane and sensible amount of money. The BA equivalent to Boots is a crock of shit. It’s often more expensive than Boots and its products are cack. Buy the suncream and you will roast like a piggy; buy the moisturiser and you will end up adorned with greasy white flakes; buy the conditioner and your hair will look like you’ve soaked it in olive oil over night; buy the perfume and you will smell like a Glade plug-in. I would make a trip to Boots a priority.
2. Go to Topshop. And H&M. And Urban Outfitters. And PRIMARK. Oh my god. FASHION. I never thought I cared much about fashion. It turns out I do. I miss it horribly.
3. Go to An English Pub and sit by a fire (not freezing my tits off like I was in the winter in BA because in the UK they actually heat public houses) and drink pints of Real Ale. Eat Walkers’ crisps. Have a pickled egg. Get drunk and get a NICE KEBAB on the way home. Oh god, Kebabs.
4. Go somewhere on a London bus. Stop complaining about London buses. Seriously, get a life. You don’t know you’ve been born. I wouldn’t even know where to start on the buses here. Even though I am actually quite fond of them and generally choose them over the underground, they take overcrowding, heat and chaos to a whole new level. I would take a London bus and SIT DOWN and look out of a window that is not black with filth. I would not need to have gone to the bank especially to ask for coins because I would have an OYSTER CARD. Oh my god. An oyster card. I could weep.
5. Use a washing machine. And wash all of my own clothes. You may remember the washing machine I encountered on moving into my current apartment. I did try to use it once but two hours later was back at the laundrette. It is the most pathetic piece of equipment I have ever had the misfortune to use. It swills your clothes round in a very vague fashion for about 10 minutes and then it’s done. It is your responsibility to fill it with water (with a hose, natch) and then to drain it (with another hose) and refil, repeating this process about six times until your clothes are still full of soap but you’ve stopped caring. You then have to wrestle with a load of sopping wet soapy clothes and a tiny drying rack that your landlord erected for you with a saintly look on his face – as if you were the luckiest tenant he’s ever had. Clearly, I go and get the nice lady at the laundrette to do it for me.
6. TAKE A BATH. Oh my god, a bath. A clean, nice, bubbly bath. A BATH. I could cry. I am from a family of bath lovers; the first time I lived somewhere with a shower was when I moved into my first university hall of residence. (In fact my parents still don’t have one. We LOVE BATHS.) I miss baths. If you saw mine here in Arge you would understand.
7. See my family. I miss them today. In fact just got so fed up of not seeing them that I blew three weeks’ rent by sending them some Harvey Nicks panetone, coffee and fudge. I miss Grouse, I miss Vince and I miss standing in a field chatting to the horses.
7. See my friends. The above fantasy notwithstanding, I really miss them right now. My beloved university chums are all having Christmas lunch as I type and I cannot believe I’m not there with them. Chums! Feliz Navidad! I miss you! Similarly, I cannot believe I won’t be having annual Sister Drinks back home in the Retreat, I can’t believe I will be missing the RMC xmas burgers followed by a visit to casualty; I cannot believe I am not organising the VC xmas festivities or taking a trip to see The Perfect Couple who have just had a baby. I hate that I am not going to go to Bristol to get trolleyed and make up loads of lies to men in pubs with Jo and Kate. I hate that I will not be getting cosy by the fire with the 3 Ms or buying a christmas tree with Sarah or Kieran or HT. SAD TIMES!
(NB: I just texted one of them to tell them how sad I was not to be with them. The response was: Shut the f*ck up and go and sit in the sun, you w*nker.)
9. Go on a night out that starts at 7pm, involves dinner by 9pm and finishes at a reasonable 2am. ARGENTINA, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Why do you not go out until 11pm? Why do you eat at midnight? Why do you not even CONSIDER entering a nightclub until 2am? I do not understand you. I cannot get used to you. I am too old.
10. Go to a Church where they sing carols. I know, it’s pathetic, but I miss carols. I have them on my ipod at the moment and they possibly make me weep a little bit; I just LOVE carols. I’ve gone to a carol service every year for at least ten years (Marge – if you go to Southwark cathedral with anyone else I will have to excommunicate you.)
So there they are. My little fantasies. I feel a bit ungrateful writing them because it’s not like my life is a load of cack right now. It’s not at all. BA is amazing. And hot. Not covered with four feet of snow. I have lovely friends here and a possible xmas day date with The Man, who has been calling me from a satellite phone from the world’s most inhospitable place, saying things like “I can’t wait to see you” and “how is the editing going?” (He is in a place where it is minus 40! He has escaped death several times! He hasn’t been able to wash or have a private crap for two weeks! And he still wants to know how my problems with the flashback in chapter 27 are going? My god.) The bondiola I had for lunch was actually delicious and there could be worse reasons for staying indoors when it’s hot/Sunday because you’re finishing off your first ever novel which is being published by the best blinking publishing house in the universe. And when I think back to the ridiculous situation I was in last year, obsessing uncontrollably over a complete mentalist drug addict, I think things have moved on pretty peachily for me.
But still. England. Christmas.