Tel col and dinosaurs…11th February 2020
My Sunday Tel col from the weekend below. I had a slightly dicey trip up north to Scotland and back this weekend for work, delayed unexpectedly in Glasgow for a night on Sunday because of the storm. I got back yesterday afternoon so today is the first day I’ve had settling into Crystal Palace, doing a wash, unpacking bags and generally feeling more like a human being than I have for the past week. I’ve even washed my hair. Hurrah. And it’s nice here. I’m sitting in a Crystal Palace cafe writing this, overlooking the park. Sunny, blue skies and 15 life-sized dinosaur sculptures to walk around. What more can one ask?
What sort of packer are you? I once went on holiday with a man who, I realised with horror just before we left for the airport, wrote an itemised list of everything he was bringing with him. Fruit of the Loom t-shirt? Tick. Red socks? Tick. Any chance of romance? Enormous red cross.
I’m not this sort of packer so this week has been an ordeal. I had to move house and, the morning before the movers arrived, I hadn’t packed a single item. That day was spent covered in dust and nostalgia. A drawer that I had been avoiding, crammed with love letters and photos of my ex and me, had to be tackled. I spent an hour unpicking the heap of cables that appeared to have been mating in another drawer. Could I bear to get rid of a single book, some of which I inherited and have my grandmother’s name neatly written in the front? (Answer: no). And so many wire clothes hangers! How is it possible for someone who isn’t a professional dry cleaner to amass so many hangers? Still, that evening I had made progress, congratulated myself and cracked open a bottle of red wine.
The embarrassment started at 8am the next day when I woke to the arrival of four removal men in combat trousers. They wanted to look round the flat first. We traipsed into my bedroom to discuss how to remove my very large mattress and everyone pretended not to notice the naked portrait of me I had taken a few years ago. I’d meant to unhook it earlier but forgot.
‘Would you like a tea or coffee?’ I shrieked to try and alleviate the incredible social tension I felt at this. I parroted the offer throughout the day. Do removal men ever suffer a very specific form of tinnitus at being being offered ‘tea or coffee?’ so many times in middle-class accents?
The next embarrassment came when they moved my bed and uncovered an earplug graveyard, the sticky, brown ends covered in hair and carpet fluff. Socks kept appearing underneath sofa cushions. As they cleared the bathroom, an industrial-size box of Movicol tipped upside down and sachets skittered across the tiles like beetles. ‘WOULD ANYONE LIKE ANOTHER TEA OR COFFEE?’ I screamed.
The mattress would not fit through my bedroom door. It arrived a few years ago, professionally strapped by the bedding company, doubled over like a piece of bread. Dimitri, head mover, sucked his teeth and said he wasn’t sure they could get it out again. What about the window, I pleaded. I stood in the garden, avoiding eye-contact, while two of them shunted it through with their shoulders. Blood sugar level was low by this point so I returned to the kettle for another round. Disaster followed when Peter accidentally drunk Dimitri’s coffee and there was a shouting match which was heard on the moon.
‘Dimitri, would you like this?’ I said, trying to de-escalate the situation by offering him a cashmere jersey left by my ex. I make a ropey Marie Antoinette. He took it in the end, plus one of my bonkbuster books for his wife.
They were done by 5 and left in the lorry, presumably physically exhausted but buzzing with caffeine. I peeled up a few more earplugs and set off for my sister’s where I’m living temporarily until I find my next place, although I may try to avoid another bout of packing by living with her until I die. If anyone needs a few coat hangers in the meantime, let me know.
How do we feel about taking our slippers to another person’s house? On Saturday, I went to my friend Clare’s for dinner, a relaxed affair where we caught up over a chicken salad and, afterwards, watched The Guns of Navarone. You know, a typical girls’ night in. I wanted to be comfortable so I brought my slippers – £14.99 from Tesco and the ugliest things you ever saw – and put them on as soon as I arrived. But I fear this matronly behaviour is the thin end of the wedge. Will I now start carrying my dressing gown to friend’s for Tuesday evening suppers? Arrive in my pyjamas? Should I bring my nail clippers so I can give them a quick trim on the sofa while there?
Hurry immediately to the internet and watch the video of Joaquin Phoenix curtseying to Prince William at last weekend’s Bafta ceremony. The actor clearly panicked as the Duke of Cambridge processed towards him and bobbed instead of bowing. I have replayed the clip 193 times, chuckling with each one. It’s wonderful, a bit like the scene in the Downton Abbey film where the footman Molesley forgets himself and curtseys to George V. Joaquin’s faux pas is a timely reminder that our Royal family are supposed to sprinkle stardust and cheer around them as the Cambridges did on Sunday. What a welcome return to form.