Friday, 22 January 2010


When Nick dumped me, so suddenly and unexpectedly, I was catapulted into a time of shock and panic. Here I was in Sydney with limited resources, nowhere to stay and few friends. In London I rely heavily on my infrastructure of friends for support, conversation, company and love.

Tess was on the phone immediately, calling up the long-distance reinforcements. “You must ring my friends Bernadette and Nigel and Madge.” I called Bernadette and we went out for dinner and a long, heartfelt chat. "What a bastard," concluded Bernadette. I called Nigel. We met for coffee. “What did you expect?” said Nigel, “all my friends are getting divorced. I don’t like Nick anyway.” Hey girl, what’s your problem?

I didn’t ring Madge straight away. She lives in Byron Bay, about 400 miles north of Sydney. I felt it would seem a bit odd to her to receive a phone call from a stranger in far away Sydney, looking for emotional support. But then again, I call people in London and lean on them almost daily. So this morning I decided to make contact with Madge.

“Hello,” I announce awkwardly, “this is Lily speaking, I’m a friend of Tess' from London.” “Oh yes!” Madge practically screams, “Tess has told me all about you.” “Well I know you’re in Byron Bay...” I begin. “But I’m not,” Madge cuts in, “I’m in Sydney today. Come to dinner. I’m meeting some friends.” “Oh,” say I, “I would love to but I’ve already made a date to go to the movies.” “What a shame” Madge replies and then motors on, “anyway, London! Do you know Adrian B?, “ “Yes I do,” I answer. We chat about Adrian B for a moment. “And do you know Janet C?” asks Madge. “Of course,” I say, “I know her quite well.” The conversation continues in this vein. It turns out that I happen to know most of the people that Madge cares to mention.

“Ok,” I say, “How about this? I’m looking for a friend of mine in Sydney. I’ve lost her number and email address. Her name is Mandy P.” “That’s who I’m having dinner with tonight!” exclaims Madge, “You have to come.”

I collect Deirdre from her home. We kiss and cuddle her angelic two-year-old Eddy. Deirdre finally tears herself away from Eddy’s cute charms, waving goodbye as he squirms in the arms of his father. “Phew, that’s a relief,” says Deirdre as she buckles her seat-belt. This is Deirdre’s big night off, a whole two hours of freedom. To make the most of it she has booked us ‘Gold Class’ seats at a cinema in Bondi Junction’s Westfield shopping mall. A seventeen-year-old concierge greets us, issues our tickets and hands us menus. We order salt-and-pepper squid, wine for Dierdre (large glass) and San Pellegrino for me. The cinema is small and furnished exclusively with pairs of large, wine-red, reclining armchairs with extendible footrests. A wave of melancholy jolts me. They are just like the chairs in the chemo unit at Harley Street.

As the lights dim, a waiter serves our refreshments and we settle in to watch Up In the Air. This turns out to be a marvellously quirky and insightful movie about relationships: with lovers, with friends and with family. That it stars the delectable George Clooney is an added bonus.

After dropping Deirdre home I call Madge. “We’re in a restaurant in Paddington,” she informs me, “come over. I won’t tell Mandy that you’re coming.

Ten minutes later I walk in to a crowded pizza joint. The table goes quiet. Then Mandy nearly eats her napkin. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Lily!” she eventually utters.

Mandy and I have been traveling on parallel, but, as you will see, ultimately different, paths. She has been dating a gorgeous man, Tony, who lives in London. By chance, I am also independently acquainted with Tony. So in the course of the past year, Mandy and I have crossed paths several times, first in Sydney and then whenever she visited London to be with Tony. On each occasion Mandy and I had got together to have lunch and gossip about our lovely men.

And now, here is Tony, sitting in the restaurant in Sydney. I take a seat next to him. “How long are you here for Lily?” enquires Tony. “I go back on the 26th of March,” I reply. “Can you change your flight?” he asks. “Why?” I look at him, puzzled. “Mandy and I are getting married on the 27th.” Tony quietly tells me.