Very few things surprise me about London these days... and I like that.
When I first came to London, everything shocked me, from the (un)savoury streets of Soho to the fact it never gets properly dark! I was quite the country mouse and homesick for many months, or dare I say, years.
But now I love London properly. I love that you can walk around your neighbourhood and nobody except the Six Chicks know your name. It's a level of anonymity that allows you to lead a peaceful existence in those much-needed downtime days.
Anyway, as I was saying, not much shocks me now. For example, by my office there's a guy selling odds and sods who's dressed like Nora Batty right down to the wrinkly tights and prim tweed skirt. However, his outfit is finished of with a pair of running shoes and short back and sides.
Seems totally normal doesn't it?
But then sometimes I do find myself hankering after belonging to some sort of community – to have the security of knowing that I have a friendly neighbour to call on in the event of an emergency. Could such a community exist within the North Circular?
Now, on Friday, it was my birthday (did I mention this already?) and after extensive weekday partying I had the entertaining finale of trick or treating with London cousins 1 and 2... And of course, London Aunt and First-Ever-Friend.
London Aunt lives in a still fairly centralish neighbourhood of town where people can say, my other car's a hybrid and the houses are so big I couldn't afford a mortgage on the front porch. But that's not what surprised me; this is London after all!
What surprised me was that trick or treating around this London neighbourhood was like being an extra in Neighbours. Everyone knew everybody else, children were playing in the street, and at every house was a smiling parent holding out a big bowl of candy. It made me want to go home and invite all my neighbours round for a cup of tea and a nice chat. Except I don't even know who they are and they'd probably think I'd gone bonkers!
This warm and fuzzy, and to be frank, quite disturbing, feeling carried me along through freezing temperatures as I admired the competitively-decorated, cobweb-covered, pumpkin-filled front gardens of each and EVERY house, and munched on candy filched from London Cousins' already-heavy goody bags.
But, I couldn’t help wondering where the real London was, the London where you can do a complete supermarket shop at 10.30 on a Sunday night, and where you can fall from the top to the bottom of an underground escalator during rush hour and nobody notices – in fact I did this once when I was 15 and on work experience at Reuters. It was very painful and not one ‘Are you OK?’ was uttered.
And then, like a bolt from the blue, a sign that I really was in London appeared again...
…in the form of the trick-or-treat goody bags.
London Cousins 1 and 2 had cauldron-shaped things with spiders on and, along with their mate, who'd come as a witch, they cut quite an authentic look. Until I saw her trick or treat bag said Cow Shed on it!!!!
Now, her Rents had just come back from Cornwall and were still unpacking when we kidnapped her for the festivities so I wondered if perhaps her cauldron was in not easily accessible. (Her dad, Blanco, is a reader in fact! Hello Blanco!)
But then, I began to observe the other children's loots bags in the neighbourhood...
Chanel paper carrier bag with black rope handles
Armani paper bag from a Harrods make-up counter...
Hell, I swear one of them actually had a Mulberry Roxy bag.
Boom went the Ramsey Street exterior and back came London... For it is only here that a child will have a designer trick-or-treat bag.
But apparently it's not limited to children. This morning on my bus a pristine lady sat down on the bus beside me. Mui Mui bag plonked on her lap like a small dog. Clasped delicately between her leather-glove clad fingers was a Gucci paper bag. ‘Had she been trick or treating at the weekend?’ I absentmindedly wondered. But then I noticed her size -0 figure, and a nosy peak inside revealed a Tupperware of her lunch – probably a 10-calorie salad!