Friday, 3 July 2015

Sunday morning and Thursday night.



Sunday morning.

The flight is at midday but they need to be there three hours before. His two friends stay at our house. We all get up at seven. We make pancakes for them. Husband drives. We chat and laugh in the car for a while, until we reach Hammersmith and the turn for the motorway. Then Eldest says put some music on. 

There's a random assortment on my iPhone. I play Gary Newman, Cars, Elton John, Love Lies Bleeding, The Teardrop Explodes, Reward, Eagles, Hotel California. Hotel California is just finishing as we reach the edge of Heathrow. Now it's quiet in the car. No one is chatting. A huge Jumbo flies over. I look round at Eldest and smile. I don't really feel like smiling.

I take some photographs at the entrance: the three of them standing beneath the departures board. I hug and kiss Eldest but not too much. His friends are there. 

When we get home I mow the lawn as Husband sits on the decking and reads the papers and then his book. At five to twelve I say, "it's five to twelve."

"So?" says Husband.

Monday evening.

We have a message via Middle One, on Facebook. Eldest can't access his email. He has arrived in Hanoi. He didn't sleep once the whole trip. It's incredibly hot. He walks a few steps and he's drenched in sweat. It's mad. The roads are crowded with cyclists and mopeds. The locals say if you close your eyes and walk across they will all avoid you. He doesn't fancy testing this out. His cash card doesn't work. He's hoping to sort this in the morning. Maybe they will stay here two nights and then go to Halong Bay. He loves us all very much. He actually writes this, to his brother.

Tuesday night.

In the evening I go with some friends to see Death of a Salesman. We sit in the stalls. A tall man with an enormous head sits directly in front of me. I scrunch to the left in my seat to get a view of the stage and he moves his enormous head to the left. I scrunch to the right and he moves his enormous head to the right. He spends the first half of the play moving his enormous head rapidly from left to right.

In the interval I get up and go to the bar with a friend. "I'm going to get a gin and tonic," I say. "Good idea," she says. I order a gin and tonic. "One measure or two?" says the girl behind the bar. "Half," I say, "I'd rather not have a full measure, please." "I have to serve you a full measure," she says, "it's the law," and she pours me a full measure. I ask for a second glass and as she stands and watches I pour half the measure back into it and hand it to her. "Thank you," I say, although really I am thanking her for nothing.

I go back to my seat. The man with the enormous head sways even more but some of the action has moved left of stage so I have a better view, for a while. Then the action resumes centre stage and his enormous head is in the way again. I drink my gin and tonic and pretend the play is on the radio.

Wednesday afternoon.

It's very hot. 

"Bad news, I'm afraid," says Youngest, when I open the front door to let him in after school. 

"What?" I say.

"I put my blazer down in the playground at lunchtime and when I went back to get it it was gone. It's not my fault."

"Right," I say. "That's not bad news. I sewed your name in it. It will turn up."

"It has my glasses in the pocket," he says.

"Okay," I say. "Come and have your eye drops."

He needs eye drops because he has bad hay fever and rubbed his eyes so much that one became infected.

He lies on the low bench in the kitchen as I prepare to squeeze the drops into his eyes. "I hate this with a passion," he says.

Later we go to his parents' evening at school. It's incredibly hot. We have to queue to see his subject teachers. I count how many sets of parents are in front of us to see the English teacher. Nine. When we get to the front she tells us she's not worried about him anymore because he met his target.


Thursday evening.

I'm going to the Luna Cinema screening of Zoolander on the common with some friends. Before I go I check my email. Again. And I ask Middle One if he has heard anything more from Facebook. Again. He hasn't. But I do have a message from one of the other mothers, "Have you heard anything?" it says. 

We watch Zoolander. I've seen it a few times before. It's a silly film but I like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Actually I really like Owen Wilson, and there's some good music in it. 

It's a warm evening with a huge yellow moon low in the sky. People all over the world are able to see that exact same huge yellow moon, I think. What time will it be in Vietnam? Four am? Something like that. I imagine that huge yellow moon looking down on Halong Bay, where Eldest is asleep on a boat, somewhere. Maybe. I hope.

The blazer turned up.

Love E x





@DOESNOTDOIT

On Facebook too - 


https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Dont-Know-How-She-Doesnt-Do-It/547812378582001?ref=bookmarks








Friday, 26 June 2015

Candle in the Wind.


Saturday morning. A car parked outside our house. A large learner sign on the roof. I can see it from our upstairs bedroom window, where I'm standing with a pile of washing in my arms. Eldest gets into the car. I watch. I wait. Nothing happens. The instructor is talking. Two vehicles approach in the road, from the opposite direction. They drive past.

Cut to another car. Another day. Me driving. Eldest in the passenger seat. It's sunny. Beautiful. Hot. Windows down. Eldest puts Elton John on the stereo. "Do you like this?" I say.

"Love it!" he says. "They play this at the end of Life On Mars, as the cop car drives away."

"I had no idea Elton John was cool now," I say. "I love Elton John. I used to dance to Crocodile Rock in the basement of my friend Stacey's house, when we lived in Vancouver. When I was a girl."

I'm dropping him in East Dulwich. He likes a particular barber there. He wants his hair cut short, for the trip. Usually he goes on the bus but this time I said I'd take him. He can get the bus back. It's a favour. I'm doing him lots of favours at the moment. 

I drop him on a corner, just before Lordship Lane. I wave goodbye. "Thanks!" he calls. He is smiling. He walks away. I turn the car round, get to a junction, traffic lights, scroll through the tracks, Candle in the Wind, click. It's loud, the volume Eldest had it. "Goodbye Norma Jeane… and it seems to me, you lived your life, like a candle in the wind."

Eldest is getting his hair cut because he's going backpacking, to Vietnam and Thailand, for five weeks, with two friends. He's going on Sunday. I'm going to drive them to the airport.

I used to play this on my car stereo, when I drove home from the BBC late at night, after directing a programme, when I was young, before I had a baby, my first baby, the baby I just dropped at the street corner, who is getting his hair cut, before flying to Vietnam.

Suddenly there are tears streaming down my face. Lots of tears. I'm wearing sunglasses so I let them flow. Silent tears. Elton John. Driving. A beautiful day. Past Brockwell Park. My baby having his hair cut on Lordship Lane, before flying to Vietnam and Thailand. Before going to university. 

Cut back to Saturday morning, the car on the street. After what seems like an age, but is probably only a few minutes, the right indicator begins to wink. The car starts to move. It pulls out. Slowly. Bit faster. Faster still. Eldest is driving. The car is gone.

I am alone, standing at the window, a pile of washing in my arms.

Love E x

@DOESNOTDOIT

On Facebook too - 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Dont-Know-How-She-Doesnt-Do-It/547812378582001?ref=bookmarks

Friday, 19 June 2015

Fathers.


Sometimes fathers can get pushed a little into the background. In lots of families, where the children are grown up and long gone, they are often not on the telephone front line, or adept at the small talk necessary to oil a mostly telephone-based relationship. Sometimes fathers need an extra little bit of attention just for themselves.

This is why I instigated an annual outing to the Chelsea Flower Show with my father, some years ago now, when I bought him a year's membership to the Royal Horticultural Society for his birthday so he was able to access advance tickets for members' days. I think it was for his 60th birthday. He kept up the membership and we have been going ever since. He's now 75. So that's a lot of Chelsea Flower Shows!

One year, it must have been 13 years ago now, just after Youngest was born, we went to the Hampton Court Flower show instead because we were able to take the baby. You can't take babies to Chelsea. HCFS was okay, but we never went back. Too far away, and not 'rock and roll' enough for us.

I'm not all that fussed about going to Chelsea anymore, I reckon if you've seen 14 Chelsea Flower Shows you've probably seen them all and if there was ever a world shortage of salvias, or alliums, the whole thing would have to shut down, but I do still cherish having that one day out a year with my wonderful father all to myself. It's very special. More special than I could ever translate into words.

We now have a routine. We go in the evening, grab a couple of Pimms, sit by the bandstand to listen the band. For the last few years the band has been The Hound Dogs, and they're really good; Middle One in particular would love them. Then we look at the show gardens, paying special attention to the little artisan ones in the lane round the back of the bandstand, where our favourites are usually the Japanese garden, always with all that extraordinary round moss, and the one from Yorkshire (land of my birth). Then we grab some tea and cake and chat, usually about writing - what he is writing, what I am writing - before tackling the Grand Marquee, to look at the stands. 

My favourites are foxgloves and all things cottage garden, while my father favours ferns and hostas and vegetables. Like his father before him he is a keen and knowledgable gardener and he now runs a community orchard in his spare time, when he's not writing and teaching still (he's Professor of Sociology). I have learnt all I know about plants and gardening from either my father, or my grandfather before him.

I still associate the earthy warm smell of tomatoes with my paternal grandfather, who I used trail around after as a child as he named all the plants in his impressive vegetable patch. The end of the tour would always finish in the greenhouse, where red-green tomatoes and tall green beans grew in pots in regimented rows. Hence my memory of that closed in, glass-warmed smell.

I adored my grandfather, and he knew it. Particularly since a couple of years before he died I wrote him a detailed letter telling him so. Apparently he stormed up the road to my parent's house (my grandparents moved to Yorkshire to be near us in retirement), bursting through the front door, the crumpled letter still clutched in his hand, exclaiming: "This is what makes life worth living!" Bless him.

For my father and me gardening and gardens have continued to provide a similar meeting ground. I'm always happy pottering about with him, as he cuts and prunes and weeds, tidying up after. And so it has evolved in my own family that I am the garden person. I plan it all, I plant it all, I tend to it all, and I mow the lawn most weekends too, something traditionally regarded as a 'dad's job', while Husband, the best father you could ever imagine to our three sons, who would walk on broken glass for those boys if it was asked of him, tends to do a lot of baking. Go figure.


My little bit of cottage garden in south London.

Last weekend, when it was Eldest's birthday and Husband was busy making a lavish chocolate cake for him, as I was out in the garden cutting the grass, I stopped for a moment, resting my arms on the handle of the push mower, looking back towards the kitchen, and thought: this is an interesting reversal of roles! 

For one thing is certain, whether rustling up a chocolate cake for his eldest son, or taking his only daughter out for the evening to the Chelsea Flower Show, fathers everywhere are amazing, and they are to be valued and loved and admired. 

So - Happy Father's Day to my father, to my Husband, on behalf of his boys, and, if it's allowed, to my grandfather's memory too. Here's a picture of him below.

Love E x



My grandparents, with my little brother and me, in the garden of their house in the Malvern Hills.

@DOESNOTDOIT

On Facebook too - 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Dont-Know-How-She-Doesnt-Do-It/547812378582001?ref=bookmarks








Monday, 15 June 2015

The pram in the hallway, and the skateboard, the book bag, the blazer...


"There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hallway," as the famous quote from Cyril Connolly goes. He should have mentioned the skateboard/book bag/trainers/sports kit/blazer. It doesn't end with the pram. And what about the cooking, shopping, washing, lift to the maths tutor/football/friend's house? Wanting to write when you are a parent, and especially a mother, can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task. 

As the author Ali Smith, winner of the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction, a competition featuring only women authors, judged only by women, recently said, women "make art against the odds". And by the way I was fortunate enough to witness Ali, along with the five other finalists, read an extract from her book, How To Be Both, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank the other week and she seemed lovely. Hers was by far the most appealling performance, and I'm including Stanley Tucci reading Anne Tyler here, which was good but no comparison to seeing an author at the top of her game, reading from her own work.

I'm no maker of 'art' myself, but I want to write and have written in some very difficult circumstances, with children literally hanging off me, shouting questions, demanding snacks, and on one particularly memorable occasion when I was suddenly asked to write for The Thunderer (column in The Times) and given a two hour window in which to do so, with a small boy lying next to my desk on a makeshift bed on the floor, periodically vomiting into my wastepaper bin.

Of course there are mother-writers who shut themselves away behind the office door, expecting their offspring to be neither seen nor heard. Enid Blyton springs to mind (using the term 'writer' loosely). But I think even writers without access to her sort of 'privilege', recourse to nannies and boarding schools and such, even those who don't want to shoo their children away at all (like me), find a way, eventually, to overcome the obstacles and write.

Didn't JK Rowling, struggling and living on benefits in Edinburgh, enrol her child in nursery and sit in a warm cafe to write Harry Potter? When an author is compelled to work she will find a way of removing herself, if not physically, then certainly mentally. Because writing is a singularly private affair, a place to go to in your head. Which leads to the next obstacle the mother-writer faces, having surmounted the one of the pram/skateboard/book bag in the hallway, namely isolation and loneliness, a professional hazard, and especially a problem if you are a social creature, like me.

I've dabbled with libraries. I've imagined myself surrounded by like-minded keyboard-bashers, heads down in unison, tapping like fury, stopping occasionally to exchange whispered grown-up banter or request the right word. But fancy library memberships are expensive. And you can't pop a wash on between paragraphs at the library, or answer the door to the postman, or make a quick banana and choc chip loaf for your hungry boys who will soon be home from school. So I have given up the idea of libraries and turned instead to Twitter.

Twitter? I hear you say. What's Twitter got to do with any of this? Well Twitter is my water cooler, where I go to meet people who are not my children, to find out what's happening, to make friends, to exchange witty and/or flirtatious banter. 

I read two things this week, which helped me feel marginally less grubby about hanging about on Twitter: 1) Gossip is what makes us human. In evolutionary terms it's what's enabled us to sort the wheat from the chaff, to work out who we can trust and who we can't, and pass on that information to others; 2) Twitter may not be nearly so successful in numerical terms as its rival Facebook, but it's enthusiastically embraced by journalists because it's less about bragging about your kids and your holiday, and more about what's happening in the world right NOW. Plus I've discovered you can flirt with strangers you admire on Twitter.

What other medium enables you to engage in a brief exchange with a dishy, talented actor living on the other side of London, whom you have never met, nor will ever meet, but have admired off the telly for years? Precisely. Which brings me to Stephen Mangan and the highlight of my isolated, frustrating little week of being a mother at home, trying to write. And please don't say 'Stephen who?' He's this bloke, in Episodes on BBC 2 at the moment…



I discovered him on Green Wing a few years back and have seen him at the theatre in The Norman Conquests and Birthday, and very nearly in Jeeves and Wooster, but I won't mention this because I promised to 'let it go'. 

He's funny, and I'm a sucker for funny, especially when it's attached to tall, dark, liberal-minded atheist, with a bit of a brain thrown in (Law, Cambridge). Other than that I have no idea why I find Stephen Mangan appealling when by his own admission he looks a bit like that donkey from Shrek (actually I think Anna Maxwell Martin said that). These things happen. It's a crush off the telly. What more can I say? I don't get out much.



So there you have it. I entertain myself while trying to write away from my children, from the isolation of my home-office, by Tweeting strangers in order to stave off the inevitable day I shall be found alone, calcified, my gnarled fingers gripping the computer keyboard, by a team of handsome paramedics (one of them a Guy Secretan lookalike from Green Wing), who will snap off my crusted digits one by one, in order to prise my rigor-mortised body away, as our three sons lark about in the skateboard-ridden hallway, demanding that I find them a biscuit. 

A grim and somewhat fanciful image, I grant you, but then I'm a writer. Or at least I'm trying to be.

Love E x 

@DOESNOTDOIT

https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Dont-Know-How-She-Doesnt-Do-It



P.S. Since I engaged in brief Twitter-banter with Mr Mangan, which began with vague flattery on my part when I retweeted an article about him, along with bemoaning the fact (again) that he was ill when I had (5) tickets to see Jeeves and Wooster at The Duke of York Theatre, and ended him tweeting a kiss back, I have been trying to work out how to frame said kiss. Plus, of course, now I won't be able to EVER wash my phone.

Oh damn. I think maybe I haven't 'let it go' after all.


Links to cut and paste - 

Ali Smith - The canon is traditionally male -
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/05/baileys-prize-winner-ali-smith-interview

Gossip is what makes us human - 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11657765/Gossiping-is-what-makes-us-human-says-Oxford-professor.html




Friday, 5 June 2015

A Hindu Wedding.



"Should I wear a sari tomorrow?" I ask the boys on Saturday morning. 

Husband and I have been invited to the Hindu wedding of our neighbour's daughter, on Sunday, which is tomorrow. When I saw two friends for a walk in Richmond Park last week and mentioned this - and that I hadn't worked out what I was going to wear yet - they were scandalised. 

"That's leaving it a bit late!" said one. And that was then.

"No," says Youngest. "You can't wear a sari, that would be racist." 

"And you'll look like a try-hard," says Middle One.


"How is it racist?" I say.

No explanation is forthcoming. To be honest the boys say everything is racist nowadays, ultra sensitive to causing offence.

"They are very difficult to put on," my mother adds.

My parents are staying for the weekend, so with my mother's help I root through my wardrobe and sort out a dress, from Whistles, from a few years back. It's silk, colourful, quite modest...

"Perfect," says my mother.

"Perhaps I could dress it up if I get a shawl and some gold jewellery?" I say. Because I'm told gold jewellery is a must at Hindu weddings.

"Yes," says my mother, "and we could take a look in some of the sari shops on the high street while we're at it." She's as keen as I am to take a proper look at some saris.




So later that afternoon, Husband drops us off in deepest Tooting and we head to Primark first, to buy tights, because the forecast is cold for Sunday and I don't want to freeze to death with bare legs.

Primark is a revelation. I haven't been there in years. You can buy two pairs of tights for £2! You can buy earrings for £1! I buy all sorts, bangles and earrings for me, t-shirts for the boys, and the whole lot comes to less than 20 quid. My mother and I are giddy with excitement, and guilt.

"SO cheap!" (Me.)

"Yes, but why?" (Mother.)

"I know!" (Me.)

We both know why. Little children in India slaving over hot needle and thread and sequins, probably. Rather more offensive than a white lady wearing a sari to a Hindu wedding, you might say.

We start the march up Tooting High Road back towards Balham and home, finally making a start on the sari shops, and it's absolutely fantastic to have an excuse to push open the door and actually step into one of those colourful emporiums. Wow. The silks! The sequins! The sparkle! 



I know I could have pushed open any one of those doors at any point over the last twenty years, since we have lived on the edge of Tooting, but I never have because I've never had cause to, and because I've always felt too shy, plus those shops always seem empty, if I walked in on my own I would feel so... conspicuous. 

But now I have a secret weapon: my mother, the ultimate ice-breaker, guaranteed to take the lead and talk to people while I can hover in the background if I want, and even if I don't want.

My eye is immediately drawn to a fabulous sari at the back. £800. £800! No sweatshop involved in the making of that one then, I assume. I hope. Then we look at some salwar kameez, much more reasonably priced, around £30/£40. They have some sequins on them, but not much. 

"Would this be dressy enough to wear to a wedding?" I ask the smiling proprietress.

"Oh no!" she shakes her head, "not for a wedding."

I think of my understated little Whistles number, hanging on the wardrobe door back at home. Oh dear.

In the end we buy a gold trimmed silk shawl, which the shop-owner assures me will dress up my outfit perfectly, and I go to the wedding the next day in the Whistles dress with gold jewellery and the shawl, which my mother fashions to look "Indian".

"What do you think?" I ask the boys, twirling in the kitchen.

"No sari then," says Middle One.

"No," I say, "I'm going Hindu-lite."

"Mummy!" says Youngest, "That's racist!"





I don't have a photo of me but here is the happy couple, with some of the family. And my outfit was fine.

Love E x

@DOESNOTDOIT 








Friday, 29 May 2015

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.



I'm driving along next to Tooting Common when suddenly the electric wing mirrors on my car start to move by themselves. The button has fallen off exposing the workings beneath so now it's utterly unresponsive to my command. Essentially the wing mirrors have gone rogue. In order to see what is behind me when I change lanes I have to follow their maverick progress with my whole body away from and then back towards the car. This feels dangerous. Probably because it is dangerous. 

Let's face it the car is knackered. We bought it when Youngest was born and it was nine months old then. Youngest was 13 on Tuesday. Do the Math, as the Yanks say. Unfortunately the engine is still going strong, it's just everything around it that has been gradually decaying for the last 13 years. Me included.

The upholstery is worn, faded, torn in some places. The clutch is clanky. The steering is laboured. The suspension almost non-existent. Minor electrical failings are occurring in batches. First the air con, then the stereo, then the alarm, which has a life of its own and goes off randomly if we try to point and press with the key so now we have to put the key in the lock and turn it TWICE before opening the car. We may as well say a little prayer and do a bit of Voodoo as well. Then the boot locked itself the other day and nothing we tried would make it give way. On Friday a cyclist overtaking in Richmond Park cheerfully informed me through the open car window that one of the break lights is on the fritz.

I want a new one. Car that is, not break light, which Husband seemed to think was the solution to the whole problem. Husband says let's hang on to this car for a while longer, new cars are a waste of money, new cars devalue immediately, and we don't even use it that much.

This is the usual turn of events in our house. I'm for new. Husband is not. It was the same with the kitchen. I went on about it for several years and then he caved. Eventually. Same with buying a house, going on holiday, having a baby, having another baby, having a third baby, getting married (maybe not quite in that order). 

Our modus operandi is that I nag and he gives way. Eventually. How many marriages work like this? Hundreds of thousands, I should imagine. Can't we just skip Part One and go straight to Part Two, avoiding a huge amount of hassle and wasted breath on my part? 

And I think it is my duty here to inform - and to remind him - that in the many years we have been together we have purchased only one car with our actual money. ONE. We inherited two old cars from my grandfathers: a Mitsubishi Gallant from my maternal, a Honda Civic from my paternal. And we were kindly given a little money by Husband's stepmother once, which we used to buy our first car, an old, red Fiat Panda, which cost £1,000 (I'm working back chronologically here). So the only car we have EVER bought is this current one, our 14 year old Vauxhall Zafira. And please note that not a single one of those cars was cool. Well, maybe the Fiat, a bit. 

You could say we've been very parsimonious when it come to cars, and Green too for that matter. So now I have my eye on a Citroen Picasso Grand. MPV of the year 2015, according to Google. I was checking out a brand new one, in Shark grey, parked by the side of the road, when we went shopping just off the King's Road over the bank holiday. The somewhat frantic owner clocked me and ran up to claim it. She was all high striped shirt collar and pearls...

"I'm not stealing it!" I hastened to inform her, "I'm just thinking of buying one of these."

"Oh it's great," she sighed with relief, "I have the seats down in the back there all the time so I can get the surfboards in, and Buster as well."

I assume Buster is her dog. I didn't ask, and she didn't elucidate. Maybe he's the recalcitrant husband who doesn't toe the line and isn't allowed to ride up front? 

Now there's an idea.

Love E x




@DOESNOTDOIT


Friday, 22 May 2015

Tottenham Court Road.


Every couple of months I meet up with a friend who moved away from south London a few years ago to the 'burbs. This time she suggests we meet in Heals because she wants to look at cushions. I love mooching round Heals and they have a lovely coffee shop, so we arrange to meet there. 

In fact I love all furniture and interiors shops. In particular I like fabrics and lighting and crockery and cushions and jugs. Our house is stuffed with it all, especially jugs. There's so much crockery displayed in the kitchen that there's not space for anymore. Sadly.




I get the Northern Line, of course. Where's Heals? I think, as I sit on the tube with my new Kindle. Oh yes, on Tottenham Court Road. I haven't been there in years. They've been working on the station and it was closed for ages. It's all different round there now.

I'm absorbed in my book (sorry, my Kindle. No, sorry, my eReader) so I  get up automatically at Tottenham Court Road tube stop. It's only as I feel my feet hit the platform that it occurs to me that Goodge Street is much closer to Heals, and then the doors slam behind me. Too late. Never mind. The walk up Tottenham Court Road will do me good.

I go up the escalator, and then another one. Some man ascending on the parallel escalator looks at me, turns away, looks back. What? I think. Do I have dirt on my face? What? What! 

I try to avoid him at the top as I exit the barrier. I turn left in a hurry to get away and because that's what I always used to do at the top of the escalator at Tottenham Court Road if I wanted to walk north.

I walk. Gosh, it's changed a lot round here, I think. On the opposite side are two very old building facades, held up with nothing but scaffolding, no actual building behind, just empty space, quite eerie actually, and disconcerting. I pass a few of those London tourist shops selling tat: I Love London hats and mugs and key rings. Then a few music stores. Then a Primark. 

There's a Primark on Tottenham Court Road now! Wow, I must tell V (the friend I am meeting) and there are far fewer music shops than there used to be. Amazon has so much to answer for.

Eventually I see a tube station coming into view up ahead on the left. Goodness, I've reached Goodge Street already! With no sign of Heals yet. In fact there's a new Top Shop, a huge one, on the other side of the road, where Heals should be. Where is Heals? 

I can't read the name of the tube station from this angle but I can see the tiling around the top. It says: Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus.

Blimey, I think, Goodge Street tube must once have been called Oxford Circus, like Tooting Bec tube was once called Trinity Road and then re-named. Strange, because how could they call it Oxford Circus when it's so far from, you know, actual Oxford Circus? 

Then I stop dead in my tracks. People walking behind me narrowly miss smashing right into me. People coming towards me have to take sudden evasive action to avoid a collision. I'm not on Tottenham Court Road. I am on Oxford Street. 

The sudden, complete disorientation this causes in my brain is a shock. I am not where I thought I was. Not metaphorically this time, but actually. 

There is not a new Primark on Tottenham Court Road. The music shops are most likely still there. I turned the wrong way when I left the tube and did not notice my mistake until now, nearly at Oxford Circus. Not only that but I was prepared to believe TfL had wrongly labelled their own tube station rather than accept that it was I who had gone the wrong way. I think there's a name for that sort of delusion, and it's not a flattering one.

My brain has to do some fast realigning and for a moment, a fraction of a second, it struggles. Right, I will have to strike north east to get back to Heals if I don't want to walk the length of this street again, back to Tottenham Court Road tube before turning LEFT.

I'm mildly panicked. I consider jumping in a taxi. How late is this going to make me? I'm a long way from Heals now. Then I calm down. A taxi will probably take longer and I have a text from V saying that she's going to be late, her train was delayed. I text back: "Don't worry. Also late. Got lost!"

I start to walk again, using The Post Office Tower to navigate. I know that when standing in front of Heals you can see it before you. 

Okay, I think, so I may well have early onset Alzheimers but don't they recommend getting lost as a way to test your brain? To stave it off? I was lost, in a way, at least I wasn't where I thought I was, so now I will correct myself. Not using Google Maps or ringing Husband (who has a much better knowledge of central London than I do) or by asking someone. I will work it out myself.

I turn around, take a few steps back, turn left off Oxford Street, walk for a while, turn left again, go straight, look up to check the position of The Post Office Tower, turn left again and eventually find myself on Charlotte Street. I know this! And there's a sign for Goodge Street pointing ahead, which I follow. A busy road comes into view. This must be Tottenham Court Road. It is! I come out almost exactly opposite the shop, relieved, elated, and not even particularly late, only ten minutes.

I walk through Heals. The lighting department is stuffed with lovely retro lights like the ones I have in our kitchen. The crockery department has a complete set in a design I have recently began to collect, including a large jug. 

I go up to the coffee shop. It's closed for refurbishment. I text V - "And now the coffee shop is closed for refurbishment!" Then I go back downstairs and buy the jug.

Love E x

@DOESNOTDOIT