Back from London. It was grey and windy and wet. I strode about in my sensible boots with a huge black umbrella and an absurd velvet coat. Old haunts, old friends (one all the way from California), old jokes, red wine, good food, good conversation. A lot of affection, which is the very thing, just now.
The dear old city looked a bit drowned and defeated in the weather. But just as I think oh dear, poor, soggy London, there is something hopeful – a whole gaggle of children, excited and bright-eyed, in the National Portrait Gallery, a kind taxi driver, pretty Christmas decorations, a man solemnly eating his breakfast in South Kensington whilst wearing a trilby hat.
I thought, oddly, of my father. He was not a London man, but when he had to go up for lunches or meetings or haircuts he used to go through Paddington Station, just as I did today. Whenever I am there, I get a flash of him in the smart blue suit he wore for going to the smoke. Sometimes I see an old fella who looks a bit like him, and I get a catch in my throat.
Our ghosts, I think; how we carry them with us. I think: we must keep them very close to our hearts.
Some old pictures of my dear departeds:
Those are the old loves. Here are the new ones, from a bit earlier in the year. I think of them and smile and wonder how they are getting on without me in blustery Scotland. The weather has been bad there too, but I see the forecast is for sun. My girls will like that:
Oh, and I have new hair. Short as a brush and striped in three different kinds of red. (My poor mother; she dreams of the day when I shall revert to my natural blonde, and be her little golden girl again.) My hairdresser, who has known me since I was twelve years old, turns to his new assistant: ‘This one,’ he says, gesturing at me. ‘You can do anything with this one. Dotty as you like.’ He means this as a tremendous compliment. I take it as one.