Back in Whitechapel for a doctor’s appointment I walk past the road I moved into two years ago – the streets are full of stalls but some new council money has meant that the pavements have been widened and now they are two rows thick selling saris, burkhas, chicken biryani, fruit in flimsy plastic bowls. It is different to Highbury where I am staying now – where there is the park, the dogs, mums pushing buggies and kids on scooters.
In the kitchens of friends’ houses with the doors open, flatmates pass in and through, spread out childhood games on the carpet. There are bowls of food, wine in tumblers, the stuttering, shuddering flicker of candles.
Halfway through the month and there is a week away skiing with family and friends – a beautiful week, sharp and hard like a nut; the clean base smell of snow and the stretching colour of blue skies. I share a bed with two of my best friends and we laugh about things that haven’t changed – wearing each other’s clothes, Han letting her suitcase spill open everywhere.
Back in London and I am off the tube, walking parallel to a father and his son, who turns and yells back Dad, look at this snowman! Even though I’ve been travelling for hours, the flight was cancelled and the airport covered with sleeping people, faces tight with agitation, it makes me smile. London is like I’ve never seen it before and once I’m home and have a bath which turns my skin pink, Phil and I walk out: past the park, along Upper Street, by the canal to a little pub he knows.
I still have the very last traces of henna on my fingernails from months ago – warm from the beating heat of the yard. Soon, it will all have grown out.
Meeting friends through the month – over coffee and thick cake that I cut into squares, one reassures me, lets my face prickle hot with tears; others in different places, girls I’m lucky to know.
Running through the city I want to pull down the expensive cameras from people’s faces. Around Old Street, a turning mass who point gleaming rings towards the skyline or their friends’ outfits. I want to stop and say tell them to just look instead.
On the last day of the month I meet Lauren in a pub tucked away behind a church. We talk about her new job and I spot a friend across the room. Two men, the stragglers from a larger group of six, stay to talk to us. They’re trade unionists and one has huge hands like spades, a glinting wedding band which chinks against his pint glass every time he goes to pick it up.