On a weekday night, I am waiting for the girls to arrive – the window is open, air coming in and the lights of the houses opposite square and yellow. Chopped onion, the smell of torn coriander, a pan of something simmering on my one-ring hotplate on the floor. They come and we sit around my table, tearing bread and catching up. In a thin little bar that is becoming a favourite of mine, Ken joins us. Creaking doors and windows and squashed together on the worn leather of the sofa.
Out with the boys from work: Peter on the stage, laughing in the pub afterwards, someone young and blonde with colourful heels joins us. Phil and I escape out onto late night Oxford Street (too bright and too loud under the spinning cartwheeling sky).
Midweek I am working from my flat but manage to grab a coffee with Dad, the colours of the cars on the street outside, the road half lit with spring. As I walk him back to the underground, there is a brass band outside the Royal London to celebrate the opening of the new hospital. I think of Alasdair, Fabs’s dad, and a helicopter whirrs overhead.
The Barbican, the cold glass of a beer bottle, bare skin, a shoulder, water. The sound of someone’s laughter nearby. On the stage, the singer’s dress glitters like shining stone and her voice fills the room.
On Saturday morning at Borough, I meet Lewis and we sit out with the train rumble and shriek overhead. It is great to catch up and he makes me laugh. Chai tea and raspberries, paper bags and a scampering breeze.
On the train north there are eight women further up who are sharing bottles of fizzy wine. On a girls’ weekend away, they make me smile. A family opposite all in Newcastle shirts – they share a packed lunch, and the children wriggle, bored. Bruisy blue sky and raindrops on the window, yet a full rainbow over the fields.
I have to change at Newcastle: off the swift east coast line and onto the local two-carriage train that stops at Cramlington, Widdrington, Acklington and up to the sweeping bay and coloured squares of Alnmouth. I meet someone from my hometown on the train and he tells me some local things.
Sunday night – last night – I am working upstairs at my old desk, writing for a client. Dad comes up and brings me a gin – and I greet him with enthusiasm. I’ve forgotten that he makes them strong and I love the bitter bite on the inside of my cheeks, lime around the rim. “You’re your mother’s daughter” I hear him say as he goes down the stairs.