What do I love about London? The freezing cold weather in the middle of May? The £185 gas bill? The honest and fair mortgage lenders who have increased my repayments by THREE percentage points to ensure their continued ability to profiteer? The slippery mechanics who swear on their Grannie’s bones that my car needs a new petrol tank at a cost of just £1,300? The dog excrement that festoons the footpaths? The exciting new Con-Lib coalition government? No, I love the people.
Sheldon and Doug met me at Heathrow. I was overjoyed to see them.
When I was a little girl I lived with my mother, father and sister on a tiny island off the north coast of New Guinea. My father, Julian, was a con-man of magnificent grandiosity. He was also a relentless womaniser. Starting to ring any bells? When he moved his mistress into our house my mother walked out and went back to Sydney, taking my baby sister Miranda with her. The deal was that my mum would find a house for us to get settled in and then my father would send me on to join her and my sister. But he didn’t do that. Instead he spirited me off to the highlands of New Guinea. There I travelled from place to place with my father’s mistress, sometimes staying in a remote village, sometimes in a motel, sometimes at someone's house. Unbeknown to me, he was sending telegrams to my mother, telling her that I would be arriving on this or that flight. I did not arrive on those flights. Eventually, he and the mistress gave me a fake birthday party, told me I was six (I think I was four years old), and sent me unaccompanied on a flight to Sydney. Only this time he neglected to send a telegram to my mother. When I arrived there was nobody there to meet me. I can still remember kicking my heels on one of those high desks, the lone stewardess waiting along with me and the vast, shiny floor of the empty terminal. Throughout my life I have experienced a level of anxiety when arriving at airports, especially Sydney airport.
The last time that I knew happiness was as I passed through the exit doors at Sydney airport last Boxing Day with my luggage piled high on a wobbly trolley. Two minutes later I knew that Nick was not there.
Sheldon and Doug were determined to meet me when I landed at Heathrow. It is in these small acts that we are truly shown love.
My car is off the road. BMW Park Lane alleges that it needs a new petrol tank. It will just have to stay off the road until things like new petrol tanks make their way to the top of my list of priorities. Another thing I love about London is that I can just walk down to the bus stop and, a minute or two later, a bus comes along.
Another friend, Royston, lives across the road from me. You may recall how he didn’t come to water the plants when I was having chemotherapy. Tonight he offers me a lift home from South Kensington. I am glad to accept. “What I love about you Lily is that you’ve completed your cancer treatment and you’re smoking. It shows commitment to the cause,” says Royston.
The last time I saw Royston, only a few months ago, he could not afford to get his old banger insured. But in true gutter-to-penthouse form, this evening he pulls up in a convertible Mercedes SL. “Where did you get this?” I gape. “It’s a long story, hop in,” replies Royston. He does not tell me the long story, instead he asks me a rhetorical question: “Do you know what is the most fun about this car?” He cranks the sound system up to rocket launcher level. My eardrums tremble. “AC/DC” I exclaim.
“Yes and that’s not the best part,” he flips open the glove-box, “look at the note that someone left under my windscreen.” He passes me a torn piece of notebook paper scrawled with a message in angry black felt-tip:
ONLY AN UTTER CUNT WOULD DRIVE AROUND IN A CAR LIKE THIS WITH THE TOP DOWN PLAYING AC/DC XX
Royston looks proud enough to burst. “An utter cunt!” he crows, “That person has no idea how much they have made my day.”