211 Days to go
It’s my first night out since Lockdown started in March last year and probably the last time I step through the doors of The Paradise Bar. Admittedly the last time I was here was two years ago at Halloween and before that someone’s birthday. Maybe Sarah’s? Another drunken night dancing body to body thrumming to music with the scent of sweat and tequila. The tequila was me. I hope the body odour wasn’t!
The girls arrive. Only five of us. The close few that I see at Christmas and my friends birthdays. Women who I admire and always step away thinking I wish I had more time to get to know these women as my friend, not just a friend of a friend.
I walked the twenty minutes to the pub past Kensal Rise cemetery, on the Harrow Road. Supposedly at some point Kensal Rise Cemetery became the place to be seen, dead. Filled with nobility and the late and great Freddie Mercury. The river is just behind the cemetery and to my left are rows of houses build in the late 1800s.
I arrive six minutes late. For me that feels like a lifetime. I hate being late. I consider being on time late and would prefer to arrive an hour early than be late! But when I check the What’s App group that has been created for the evening, I see that no one else has arrived and remember that none of the group I’m meeting are ever on time!
I’m here for my friends birthday. Sarah. One of my closest friends in London. I’m going to miss her like a mother f*cker. Sorry for the swearing, but I think it gives you an idea how much I’m going to miss this beautiful blonde who I didn’t like when I first met her.
Sarah is tiny, always cold, mother to a climbing four year old and has a wicked sense of humour. And has been my friend for the last thirteen years. But the day I met her I had been in London for abut a month. She was a friend of another good friend of mine, Alisa.
Sarah was like a bouncy castle inside a person. I swear it felt like she was zipping from wall to wall, never stopping. Being with her for five minutes was, well tiring. I’d never met anyone like her before. We just didn’t mix well. But time and age and many more outings, I realised how wonderful she was. Now, I talk to her about everything, our conversations range from food to politics. Her view is always considered and sometimes she’s more Australian than I am.
We order drinks, gin and Aperol spritzes and then dinner. We still mask up to go to the toilet, but can easily sit indoors now. This is what I’m going to miss. These ready friendships. Friends of friends. Women I admire and always laugh heartily with. Women I can be myself with.
I walk home, the sky still has a light cast to it as if it will never blacken. That nearly midsummer hue. There are lots of people out and London has that buzzy vibe that it does in summer. In Australia I know its summer by the sound of Cicadas, in London it’s the sound of people laughing and smiling. From hibernation to celebration.
I’m home now, sitting in my bed glad of the cooler June night after the heatwave earlier in the week. I wonder how I’m going to cope back in Australia. Not just the temperature, but also the person I’ve become isn’t the person who left Australia. This is the place that I grew up, became me. That true version of me that was inside that I now carry everywhere.
211 days to go.
Places to visit if you're in the area
If you’re visiting Kensal Rise or surrounding areas. These are a few of the places I would recommend you visit.
- Notting Hill and Portobello Road market on a Saturday morning. Make sure you go along to the end, past the vintage clothes. You will find one off stalls and may find a cheeky bargain. Fav find at the market, a gorgeous silver plate teapot that I bargained down to £10.
- Kensal Rise Cemetery. Do a guided tour.
- The Grand Union Canal. From Kensal Rise (near the big Sainsbury at Ladbroke Grove) you can walk to Little Venice and beyond to Paddington where you can sit and have a drink or dinner by the canal. Take your time and check out the canal boats along the way.
- You’re not far from Hampstead Heath. One of my favourite places in London. Here you will discover a place that feels like you have left London, but you’re still in zone 2.