Oh my goodness.
Where to start, as I push my tired hands across the keyboard and thank God I'm on a Mac.
Well, as with all good stories, the beginning is the obvious choice, so cast your mind back just over two weeks, a short time ago that now feels like a distant dream. The sun was shining and the weather was warm, and high spirits abounded amongst the good people of London. Particularly in a small Fulham flat, where a text message arrived out of the blue, bearing some good news.
My ex-employers, from the first job I ever worked at in London, wished me to return on a temp basis for some project work, and would I like to accept? Filled with only happy memories of my past employment, aware of the fact that my freelance work could be carried out evenings and weekends, and super-excited about working in the City again, I said yes and ironed a skirt. Not so long ago I made public my sentiments towards the City, my love of the rush, my awe at the sheer volume of light and noise and spectacle it offers. I was pleased to be returning to what I considered my spiritual home.
And now it is two weeks later, it's cold and cloudy, and I am only just recovering from the short sharp shock of discovering I don't belong there. Not belonging in your spiritual home is quite a worry, but as I've discovered, my City, my take on its unique atmosphere, my positivity about which I waxed lyrical - it's all based on an illusion, an illusion I created. The work is fine. Good even. The actual place of employment, and its people, are all lovely, despite the proliferation of PCs one does tend to find in the financial sector. And it is nice to leave Fulham each day, as I've been threatening to do for...ooh, months now...I may have harped on about it a little.
But I'm so lost! Every day I've realised I know a little less than I thought I did. I don't know how to behave on the tube anymore. This very morning, I talked back to a stranger who started a conversation with me, rather than ostentatiously standing up and moving seats. I smile at other strangers, I move aside as best I can for people getting off, I offer others the spare seat, and I apologise if I stand on someone. At this rate, I will be arrested by the London Transport Police in no time.
Getting into the City is trial enough, but manoeuvering my way through it only increases the nightmare, as I walk too slowly, wait at lights rather than jaywalk, keep up that annoying habit of smiling at strangers, and don't tsk nearly enough to be considered a real player. I stand in Pret, helplessly staring at the rows of arrayed sandwiches, crowds swilling around as I hopelessly try to decide what I fancy. And don't even get me started on Starbucks. Starbucks in the City is not the same happy place it is on Fulham Road.
I'm faking it. I'm pretending I do fit in, that I'm an old hand at all this, that I don't feel at all awkward toddling along in a pencil skirt and heels, after months of donning jeans and ballet pumps. At Pret, I may hover, but I do so with a serious frown on my face, a frown that clearly states to the world 'actually, I have far more important things on my mind than lunch'. And as for the smiling at strangers - oh, whatever. I'm foreign.
I'm pretty sure I'm doing a convincing enough job right now, but it is going to go one of two ways - I will either have a breakdown in the middle of the street one day, screaming, "Why are you so BUSY!" at strangers and frothing at the mouth, or I will actually wake up one day (usually around 11am, getting up is a completely different thing to waking up in my world) and be that person, the one I pretend to be. I'll stand on people in my rush to get on the tube, I'll shove pregnant women and the elderly out of my way, sending them flying, as I nab the last seat, I'll loudly tsk everyone, not just tourists (tsking tourists is entirely acceptable - expected, even).
Hopefully, I'll be finished with this project before either of those vividly terrifying scenarios happen, and will have time to revert to Plan A - the plan where I get wonderfully wealthy in jeans and ballet pumps. Watch this space (although I warn you - it may only be filled by more tales of Woe and the City (get it?)).