About us, once more

We’re leaving, it’s pouring rain. Italians say: Strada bagnata, strada fortunata. My husband introduced me to this proverb, long ago, in the beginning of our marriage, when we were constantly traveling, arguing, making up, suitcases piled up in the trunk of a car, our son raised in transport and hotels.We had to hold on to something, and we mostly held on to those wet roads of happiness. They turned out to be fine, it seems. The same proverb comforts me now, when children and I are leaving Podgorica.Large drops of rain fall heavily on pine and cypress trees in ‘Maksim Gorki’ schoolyard, and beat against the shabby block-buildings’ facades.

It wasn’t a happy picture, either, when we arrived in Montenegro.

By night, we always travel this road by night, from Čilipi airport to Podgorica, or Niksic.People tell me – why do I even ask when I’m the most experience one at this?- that via Trebinje or Risan it takes ‘an hour, or so.’ It’s a deceit. It always takes three honest hours from Dubrovnik to the continental Montenegro. Something always slows one down. ‘If you avoid the bridge fare, you will pay the road fare,’ a Balkan proverb.

This country of ours is like a desert at night, even the sky is not lovely.I see it through the eyes of my daughter, even though she’s decided to fall in love with the country of her origin.I told her about the sun and sea of Montenegro, none of which she can see now, but still, she is looking through the car window, taking the photographs of the darkness through which, after a curve, and in the distance, a rare cluster of the Bay of Kotor lights break a-shining.

One day, I will tell her that this is the country of extremes. The sun does not shine, but burns;rain doesn’t fall, it pours; and the northern wind howls, freezing your bones with its chill, true, but freezing them even more with that noise, the howl, the sound of our transience.The sudden beauty is breathtaking;around the corner lurks utter ugliness.People are like that too: inexplicably beautiful or self-destructive. With excessive warmth or cruelty. Poor or with the manners of the old-money. With the poisonous sting of provincialism, or the openness, the tolerance of a metropolis. Primitive or spiritual. And all of that at the same time, in the same cauldron, a rather small one, which in turn either boils or stales to stink.

Here I write about my city. Everyone is at the door at the same time. They enter and exit the rooms without knocking, laugh loudly, and without a reason – a theatre with the intensity of a musical – they ask questions, do not wait for answers, they pronounce fears, everyone agrees on fears, they laugh them off, they smoke. In fact – many of my friends quit smoking.Some miss it, some don’t.I hate it when they quit smoking. I want my country like that, always on the verge of life and death, laughing at death.’Sutjeska syndrome’ that’s what we have, it’s not my discovery, it’s a certified conclusion by the professors and researchers from Harvard, or Oxford: we defy the worst, but fear the statistical errors, for example, the explosion of the stomach after swallowing a chewing gum.It thrills me because I do not live there. They always remind me of that. Easy for you, you don’t live here.They still love our desperate neighborhoods.They travel, come back, share the experience. They even go to Brussels as tourists, it is inconceivable to me, even head to Bruges, I haven’t been to those places, I had to start new lives in Zagreb, in London, I did not get to be a tourist with a local agency, the tours, with the starting point, the points of destination and return. And as to them, my MNE-B.C. fatesharers, I don’t want them to go anywhere, I’d like everyone to stay there forever, in those rooms in the neighborhood, with cigarettes in their hands, laughing loudly and without a reason.

Suddenly, in the living room of my mother’s flat, in the midst of the tribal jam which my children enjoy, I remember the moments of complete happiness, moments that are not attached to that room, they only pass through it while I’m sitting on the sofa on which everyone falls asleep, as if hypnotised.Before my eyes, a day in Belgrade, in Ranka Tajsića street, a garconiere, its window and a small balcony, where I realized, at eighteen, that I would, for the first time in my life, live alone, be the empress of my own space; before my eyes, another moment, a warm dusk and an old cabriolet driving me somewhere unspecified but me, with stardust in my hair, feeling like going to the Oscars; then, immersing in a large, saline pool in one Cala; then, entering the amphitheater of my postgraduate studies, for the first time seeing the faces of the young people who shared my passion.These scenes are independently raised over the periods in which they happened, because at that moment, or immediately before or after, nothing worth remembering had spoiled them. Complete happiness.

Then, this April in Podgorica, at the new club a little outside the town, at the Pejovics, one such moment of complete happiness, with friends that I have not seen for years, and to whom I had to recount the same story five times in a row, I think, about how a couple of days prior to that night, I misunderstood the situation when my mother was interviewed on the aforementioned sofa in her living room, on which the interviewing team then invited me to sit as well, and the young woman, the interviewer, asked me the same question she had asked my mother, that is – what I remembered from my high school graduation year. Thinking I was ‘on camera’, I changed my dialect into a more proper one, and, hiding my shoeless feet under the coffee table in front of me, I started giving her a very long answer that had no sense, methodology or logic, but still ended somehow, after which I turned to the cameraman with the intention of blinding him and his camera with one of my best signature smiles, only to see the cameraman just completing the act of packing the camera in its case with compartments for legs and other parts, and I concluded that no one was even listening to me and that the young woman, the programme editor had only asked me a question about my Senior year because I was sitting around my mother’s living room anyway.

That ‘imaginary’ interview, and that evening at my friend’s club, will also remain as the moments of complete happiness because that is, I think, how my children will remember them as well, and, either before or after, nothing bad has happened, nor was I in my mind elsewhere, no other plan, no major commitments.

My daughter says she wants all those with whom she spent time in Montenegro to live together with us forever.That’s what I wanted, to awaken that feeling in her.And even better, she doesn’t have to live like that, but she’s now aware of these emotions and of the place to which these emotions can be attached. It’s where she has all those people that her school friends have in London, which she envied. Now she can talk with confidence about her Godmother, Godsister, her Godbrother, her baby cousin she can carry in her arms, her creative aunt with whom she can paint Easter eggs without anyone getting nervous and rushing her – a place in the south, whose microclimate I always disrupt with my arrival.

My son says that in Montenegro everyone is funny, he likes to listen to people when they speak, they immediately make him laugh.

However, something happens when we want to provide a form for that wit, when we want to formalise it in some way – something misfires. The rhythm, perhaps, we change the rhythm of truth, we bury the humour in too deep a context, into correct grammar, people feel that they need to philosophise at lengths.Lengths are not our destiny, we do not live long, nor deep, nor high, we live from day to day, we have a short form, in chamber and on the streets, we make little ripples on surface, we hear death approaching, with clatter or with a hiss, and we are not some privileged people who occasionally play with transience, no;we have authentic pieces of death all around us, and when we accept this, we will be more successful.

I eat a lot of pasta, pies, rolls, sweet and savoury, oversalted meat, and smoked lake fish, ukljeve. I walk around bloated, having lost the habit of eating such food. I don’t go out much, the weather deteriorated when I arrived, the soil again hard, the aluminum skies, the north wind blowing but not chasing the clouds away. I feel like my hometown considers me a traitor because I use it only occasionally, when I want to warm up my bones, and the town just won’t accept that.

‘Unbelievable,’ I say to my mother. ‘This is a conspiracy.When I come again in July, tell the weather station to alert people of the sudden weather change.’

She is defending our hometown, she always does that, says that this is the warm kind of rain and anyway it will pass soon. The rain does not stop, but it doesn’t matter, my town is always inside me, only here do I speak naturally, in my own dialect, with its dramatically-lazy accent, which one of my Belgrade friends has described as ‘the French sounding version of the Serbian language.’ My heart and my voice, like crazy runaways, somehow always drag themselves back to these streets and their kind-of-assumed-but-ridiculed, planetary completely irrelevant, deaths at every corner.

And my reunion with London?All I see of this city through the window, as I write, is one teenager, sitting alone on a bench, sadly looking at the muddy, slow Thames.Beneath the layers of London that I know well, underneath all the layers through which the picture of a lonely teenager sinks and transforms its meaning, at the hard base of the symbiosis of London and me, I find the thought that the imposed rather than chosen loneliness deserves the most sincere sympathy and help.Image

LONDON, beginning (English)

Starting a new life in London, as a parent, requires a lot of physicality. The first year was all about the endurance of my legs, my shoulders and arms. My new life felt like a triathlon practice. At night, my muscles hurt; I had cramps in my calves. I couldn’t stretch properly in bed, because I shared it with both of my children. I needed regular massage, like an athlete, or a ballerina. I was neither; I was only a mother, a nobody, really, yet I was everybody and everything to my children, which was taxing, but left no time for sadness, for thoughts, except for the most basic thoughts of acquiring new facts and tools for survival.

We were living in a service apartment high above the polluted, noisy Sloane Street. Un-rooted we hung in the garage-smelling air pierced by shouts in languages we couldn’t understand, above boutiques and double-deckers stuck in traffic.

‘How do I meet people in London?’ I wondered, switching on the TV, regularly, first thing in the morning. ‘How do I meet the kind of people I want to become friends with?’

According to the morning TV, the government here always issued warnings. Black Ice, for example. Black Ice!!! – in a red triangle, in black letters across the screen, followed by black exclamation marks, yes, plural, yes three of them. I thought that Black Ice was a politically correct, 21st century’s name for Black Death. It was just slippery pavements.

‘Yellow warning for rain!’

‘No, actually, We Are In Drought!’

‘Meningitis C! In London’s parks’ playgrounds!’

But after a true horror, like the attacks of July 7th, everyone was supposed to carry on as normal.

We came to London in 2005 because of my husband’s job. ‘Only one year,’ he said. ‘Maybe a year and a half, possibly two.’

I was still breastfeeding my daughter. My son had just turned 7. Back home he’d only be starting school, but here he was placed in year 3. He didn’t speak any English and had no concept of math except addition and some subtraction, so after his first day of school he told me that, in London, five-times-two wasn’t seven, as I’d taught him, but ten, according to his math teacher. ‘Oh, boy,’ I thought, ‘it’s good we’ll be here only for a year.’

‘Don’t worry about maths,’ I told him. ‘You just learn some English, baby.’

But we’re still here, and it’s 2014. This kind of return-self-delusion probably happens to most people who come to London for only a year, possibly two. How can this city stand it? Because everyone has to obey its rules. As simple as that. The realisation that I only had to obey the rules and nobody would violate my rights kept me going; it made up for the initial lack of friends and babysitters.

I loved the pedestrian crossings where a pedestrian really was the king; I loved the queuing. I loved young English boys with their easily blushing cheeks, broad rowing-team shoulders, and hair neatly combed and parted from left to right. They always let me go first, made way for me, and silently got up from seats in public places, for me.

Apparently, they also liked adventure. And many times, their young lives were ended prematurely because of this love for adventure. Same with young English girls. They were too fearless, foolishly un-paranoid (and not properly dressed for this climate). It seemed that even motherhood couldn’t make them paranoid. I didn’t understand them. They had everything – why risk it? But that was the point.

I, who had come from a country torn apart by the late 20th century civil war and genocide, I hated adventure. Before that war, our childhoods were basking in the warmth of community, true – we were the product of Mediterranean spirit and the hands-on Mother-state – but there was always the sniff of cruelty in the air. Why, even the snowballs that were thrown at us, girls, used to have stones or glass hidden in them. Fortunately, it rarely snowed in my hometown. But, like with animals: everything unusual made our young males go wild. So now, change gives me migraine. I love routine.

I was surprised to find out that people considered me brave for diving into a life where, at first, everything I’d achieved thus far would be erased; and then I’d have to create again, from scratch, in another country, with small children and a mad genius for husband.Image Image

In the sun; outside London

L&O on the ferry There should be truth and only truth when one writes in one’s second language; otherwise everything sounds like emails. ‘And who sends emails anymore?’ my son asked me the other day. ‘It’s like sending a fax.’

And when there’s truth in one’s second language, well, then it sounds like a rant.

An email or a rant?

There should be truth, and there has been too much of it. Why did I put my real name on this blog? I’m bound to hurt people this way. Limitations protect humans but hurt the writing.

On the display of my UK mobile number’s phone, 3 days ago, there was a text message: ‘Call your bank without delay!’

It is the beginning of August. I have paid council tax, electricity bill, rent and Sky in advance. Now, call me spoiled, call me an ex-communist state’s protegee, but I am not going to call anyone – let alone anything, as in ‘an institution’ – without delay, in August. And what for? So that a bored employee in a too different a time zone could ask me incomprehensible questions and scare me some more?

No. I say F-O to all that.

I’m on my territory, on my terms. And I realise: I don’t miss the arrogance of London-based institutions. I don’t miss it at all.

In fact, it’s still too early in the summer. Still, when I think of London, I see the room I share with my daughter, who is almost 9. There is a keyboard in that room and she has her piano lessons on that keyboard, which stands on a plastic-top table. She is talented; she’s taught herself ‘Rondo a la Turca’ after watching the film ‘Amadeus’. One hand, but come on. But there’s no room for a piano in that apartment, which we pay an enormous rent for. Also, in my daughter’s school, which we pay an enormous fee for (which they also want in advance), when I mentioned to her music teacher that she spent a lot of time teaching herself music, writing (composing) songs, singing them out loud all day long, the music teacher replied: ‘She quite likes music, doesn’t she?’ And then the music teacher said nothing else.

‘DOESN’T SHE?’

That was not good enough for me.

It’s not good enough for any parent, who feels there’s a potential, a gift, in her child, and reaches out to ask a ‘professional’ for an advice what to do not to screw it all up, but to help it bloom.

When a ‘professional’ says nothing in return, offers nothing – what is there to ask the cheque in advance for?

The smell of lavender calms me down now.

Nowhere is perfect. I don’t ask for perfection. For a long time now, I’ve been asking simply for reality (even in fiction).

There comes a time when priorities start to change. Everything shifts. Countries shift. People get fed up.

I know that Royal Court Theatre will not disappear from Sloane Square; and I tell myself I will always be able to come and stay with my friends, see a show. Ah, the friends! There are about 20 people I could meet nowhere else but in London.

I know that Chelsea Physic Garden will always be there, so well tended for; and that Shoreditch will keep on growing hip.

It’s just that, again, back south, I’ve realised that everyday life with human (as opposed to ‘shark’) face can still exist.

Perhaps the time has come to: look like a 30-year-old, prioritise like a 60-year-old.

No-one ever promised me a sunny spot in the Physic Garden though . . .

London Stories of the South

It’s the title of my new book, which is the collection of my London stories. Obviously.

‘The South’ translates here as in ‘by a South European’. Or: ‘The South-nuanced London stories’. Translations translations.

Fortunately, the title is gripping and completely understandable in all my mothertongues: Montenegrin, Croatian, Serbian & Bosnian.

And I wrote the stories in my first languages.

One day, maybe, it will appear in this tough Anglo-Saxon market; tough because these days an unknown & translated author has to either be a runaway from a huge troubled market (country); or incredibly lucky, wealthy yet free, all over the place and web, an interesting,  young male – to even hope to be published here. But in 10-15 years…When children have grown up and moved out…Watch this space. Or not. But I will still be writing; writing much more in fact.

Anyway, this book is about all things London-related. How I arrived here, froze my butt and bones in my summery dress because it was 7 degrees in June. Now of course I know it’s the normal June temperature.

I wrote about Londoners and me. How I learned to tone down; and when I did they told me they loved my outrageousness.

I wrote about nostalgia, the plus and minuses of it; about how it moves in her mysterious ways and how I learned to switch that companion on or off.

I also wrote about the days when I was a couch potato; then, some exhibitions, some theatre.

I wrote when I was in Love with London; I wrote when I wanted to strangle it (him?); I wrote when we’d break up and come back together again, more passionately than ever.

This book can have huge audience. For any curious 15-100-year-old reader. Especially if, for now, she reads Monte, Cro, Serbo or Bosnian.

I love so many things about this book. I should have it translated, at least into English, I think.

I love the cover.

And the stories between the covers – well, ‘When you don’t know what to write, write one honest sentence,’ apparently Hemingway said this. Well, it defines my London stories.

Image

No, thanks, a rant ‘borrowed’ from a housewife’s diary

No, thanks, I say.

Once, I hoped that writing would make me the bittiest bit-bit of money, like 100 pounds a month – and it did for a while, for 6 months, maybe, and then it stopped, people stopped paying, even though they still expected lines from me, lines of words to fill their work, the real work.

If a normal person – who is, like me, glad to be alive – stays in a rural retreat for more than two consecutive nights, she WILL lose her mind or become depressed. She will start whispering to ovens. ‘Open Sesame,’ she will say to gas ovens.

No, thanks, I also really don’t want to subscribe to your daily horoscope, because then you think you own me – at least the tone of your writing thinks that it should own my soul – with its Monster Moon phases, its Pluto square Saturn, opposition Mars, Mercury retrograde, 12-year cycles of limitations, and many more aspects that should keep me immovable. I shouldn’t travel, shouldn’t make decisions, or stand up to anyone, especially persons of authority; I shouldn’t let children out of my sight, or else. All in all – not a good time to make changes, the horoscope people say. But, then, it has never been a good time for changes for those who subscribe to horoscopes, ever. I know. Get it?

No, thanks, don’t slowly explain to me why I should accept whatever my children’s schools decided was good for my children. I am not dependant on everyone else’s opinions just because everyone else is lucky enough to go to work and I stay home and am a home-maker.

Which leads me to: No, thanks, don’t call me a homemaker.

You call me a home-maker because you are trying to say that by staying at home I make an income by making it feel like home, and my husband should respect that. You calculated how much money a housewife invisibly earns, and you rebranded us as home-makers. Our husbands should pay us for agreeing to make homes, and maybe you could one day tax us as well.

But I’m a housewife. I am somebody’s wife, and I spend most of the time in a house. And nobody pays me for that.

It is a debilitating life. It’s a major migraine trigger. Still, whenever I, albeit more recently, tried to be more than somebody’s wife in the house, I was even more humiliated, very shrewdly, with smiles of supremacy. I feel like it’s too late to join the outside world. Like people don’t want me there. We are shit-for-brains wives in a house. So don’t call us homemakers. Well, at least, don’t call me that. Or at least, support that calling strongly – and not with the photos of unhappy, hysterical babies of the working mothers. Our babies are hysterical, too; they’re also less respectful of us. Support us with a law that secures us a cheque in the mail every month. Just rebranding us into ‘home-makers’ sounds horrible, like a voluntarily chosen profession, and I never wanted to be that. Never.

At least a ‘housewife’ has some drama and a lot of tragicomic elements to it.

When will a soft-tempered housewife break that glass ceiling? Never, right? And that, only that, would be a defining moment. Thatcher was the first female PM, but she was made of iron, apparently, and had hurt many lives. So, should she really count?

I think that yes, she should count, as children’s diseases count as those early, once inevitable, immune system boosters.

But, let’s get softer and rise higher; let’s not get nastier to rise higher is what I’m saying.

But I don’t think it would be the case. Not in my lifetime.

I think men will get softer before we do. They will start enjoying the house chores, and they will be the real homemakers. They will support each other in this new entrepreneurship. And by supporting each other, they will find the ways to get paid for being proper professional homemakers, the soft pillars of society. Damn.

londonstories.etc

No, thanks, I say.

I don’t want to pay a fortune and go to a rural retreat!

Even if it’s in Tuscany, or South of France. As far as I’m concerned, you can stop advebanksy_grafitti_streetart_designsekcja23rtising expensive rural retreats. Please don’t underestimate me because I don’t really work, and must have tons of time on my hands – evil playgrounds.

Yes, I only write, sometimes, which is totally insane, I know.

Once, I hoped that writing would make me the bittiest bit of money, like 100 pounds a month – and it did for a while, for 6 months, maybe, and then it stopped, people stopped paying, even though they still expected lines from me, lines of words to fill their work, the real work.

If a normal person – who is, like me, glad to be alive – stays in a rural retreat for more than two consecutive nights, she…

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No, thanks, a rant ‘borrowed’ from a housewife’s diary

No, thanks, I say.

I don’t want to pay a fortune and go to a rural retreat!

Even if it’s in Tuscany, or South of France. As far as I’m concerned, you can stop advebanksy_grafitti_streetart_designsekcja23rtising expensive rural retreats. Please don’t underestimate me because I don’t really work, and must have tons of time on my hands – evil playgrounds.

Yes, I only write, sometimes, which is totally insane, I know.

Once, I hoped that writing would make me the bittiest bit of money, like 100 pounds a month – and it did for a while, for 6 months, maybe, and then it stopped, people stopped paying, even though they still expected lines from me, lines of words to fill their work, the real work.

If a normal person – who is, like me, glad to be alive – stays in a rural retreat for more than two consecutive nights, she WILL then lose her mind and become depressed. And then she may whisper to her oven; ‘Open Sesame,’ she may say.

No, thanks, I also really don’t want to subscribe to your daily horoscope, because then you think you own me – at least the tone of your writing thinks that it should own my soul – with its Monster Moon phases, its Pluto square Saturn, opposition Mars, Mercury retrograde, 12-year cycles of limitations, and many more aspects that should keep me immovable. I shouldn’t travel, shouldn’t make decisions, or stand up to anyone, especially persons of authority; I shouldn’t let children out of my sight, or else. All in all – not a good time to make changes, the horoscope people say. But, then, it has never been a good time for changes for those who subscribe to horoscopes, ever. I know. Get it?

No, thanks, don’t slowly explain it to me, why I should accept whatever my children’s schools decided was good for my children. I am not dependant on everyone else’s opinions just because everyone else is lucky enough to go to work and I stay home and am a home-maker.

Which leads me to: No, thanks, don’t call me a homemaker.

You call me a home-maker because you are trying to say that by staying at home I make it feel more like home thus making an income, and my husband should respect that. You calculated how much money a housewife invisibly earns, and you rebranded us as home-makers. Our husbands should pay us for agreeing to make homes, and maybe you could one day tax us as well.

But I’m a housewife. I am somebody’s wife, and I spend most of the time in a house. And nobody pays me for that.

It is a debilitating life. It’s a migraine trigger. Still, when I tried not to be somebody’s wife in the house, I was even more humiliated, very shrewdly, with smiles of supremacy. I feel like it’s too late to join the outside world. Like people don’t want me there. We are shit-for-brains wives in a house. So don’t call us homemakers. Well, at least, don’t call me that. Or at least, support that calling strongly – and not with the photos of unhappy, hysterical babies of the working mothers. Our babies are hysterical, too; they’re also less respectful of us. Support us with a law that secures us a cheque in the mail every month. Just rebranding us into ‘home-makers’ sounds horrible, like a voluntarily chosen profession, and I never wanted to be that. Never.

At least a ‘housewife’ has some drama and a lot of tragicomic elements to it.

When will a soft-tempered housewife break that glass ceiling? Never, right? And that, only that, would be a defining moment. Thatcher was the first female PM, but she was made of iron, apparently, and had hurt many lives. So, should she really count?

I think that yes, she should count, as children’s diseases count as those early, once inevitable, immune system boosters.

But, let’s get softer and rise higher; let’s not get nastier to rise higher is what I’m saying.

But I don’t think it would be the case. Not in my lifetime.

I think men will get softer before we do. They will start enjoying the house chores, and they will be the real homemakers. They will support each other in this new entrepreneurship. And by supporting each other, they will find the ways to get paid for being proper professional homemakers, the soft pillars of society. Damn.

SAVE THE UK (or at least London)

This is the moment when I don’t want to live in a country I have voluntarily settled in. It’s starting to look and smell like a mistake.

There’s been too much personal investment, reinvestment, regressing and starting over; and, on top of things, just when I have surfaced a bit here, my old countymen-and-women seem to have better lives and they sure look healthier and happier than me. Well. I’m left with a hope that at least I’m learning A LOT.

Karma, hello, save me, don’t let me down; I need you to exist now, please!

If I must be an immy-mummy, I want to be an immy-mummy in a stupendous country. I don’t have to prosper, personally. By now, I’m aware that it depends on me, probably always has, but the ‘luck factor’ was far less achievable back then, back there, in ex-Yugo-sphere; and plus I’m losing my powers – slowly but surely – wherever I may be.

However, I need the promise of my children being able to avoid everything I damn didn’t avoid when I was growing up and especially later, when I was young and beautiful, and whatnot (I love to hate this ‘whatnot’ word). To avoid and not to miss out on. ‘Teach us to care and not to care,’ as TSE said.

I mean, to hell with youth and beauty, and reading world literature and having deep conversations on library steps, because – the war happened chez nous. Yadda blahda fcuk. How depressing, to put it mildly.

Simon Kuper wrote a great article for FT about the first and the second generations:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/aa94d0ec-813e-11e2-9908-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2MNv0LEeJ

Anyway, today I was walking my hairy boots off through the Batt Park to reach the school of my daughter in time for pick-up, and there comes a chiro-mag from the ‘hood. Now, the wow thing: he is English, a native of Londontown, and he is wearing a Parka!

He’s had it with this, his own, native climate! Hurray. My wind-screwed eyes widen. A smile cracks through my frozen face. I’m happy to believe I’ve influenced certain pillars of society in my ‘hood. People have started to dress appropriately for the weather conditions. And not just any people. The ones you go to, to have your photos signed when applying for passports, or just about anything.

‘I know you’re in a hurry,’ the chiro-mag tells me.

Immy-mummies are always in a hurry because we don’t drive here. Driving is just one more thing to think about for us. Like redecorating the kitchen. Or converting the basement into something gorgeous. We tend to simplify and own less. Really.

‘I know you’re in a hurry,’ so he said, ‘but I wanted to explain about the Parka.’

‘You see, I was in Austria, for the half-term,’ he went on. ‘In the mountains. Minus twenty Celsius. Now I’m back in London. And I’m freezing.’

‘Yeah yeah yeah,’ I said. ‘Of course you are.’

‘Also,’ he said. ‘One more thing. I felt so bloody poor there! Everyone is so rich. They have no financial crisis. I’m telling you, I never had a tougher time coming back to LONDON, hello, LON-DON, from some Austrian village. And London is my town, my whole family was born here. Bye now, I know you must be in a hurry.’

Let me tell you: I walked on, dragging my feet.

Stories like that don’t make me gloat. I don’t want London to lose the charm of the old-money eccentric of this planet.

Do something.

Or I’m moving to Tyrol. I already have the dress.Frau Schneider3