Coming back to London, after five months of Lakeland life, it's such a social and cultural shock, seeing the strange-looking people, funny clothes, foreign voices. Getting used to the filth and scruffiness and greyness of the landscape. Being overwhelmed by the speed and aggression and nastiness of London life. Which of course is part of why we come back. Gets so boring, living in a nice green pleasant place, waking up each day and saying oh no, not another lovely view.
It takes over a week before I remember how urban things work, where I go, what I usually do, till my elbows go out, I'm cutting corners, cutting people up, pushing and shoving, living and breathing London. Then one day, I wake up and without realising it, I'm one of them.
This year it's happened much quicker than normal. on the second day, I sat down in front of the telly, drinks ready, treats lined up, but couldn't find Sky Sports. who's been at the telly, the one I keep in my room, specially for football? Someone's buggered up the channels. Let me see, it has to go on number 5 first, or is it 39, then I set it to AV, whatever that is. still no picture. I must be going senile. Then I remembered. Just before we left in May, ITV Digital went bust.
I rang Sky about their special deal of £30 for connection, including a dish, agreeing to pay £37 a month for their top package, which means all their rubbish channels, but after a month, I can dump the rubbish and just have sports. Don't they make it so complicated. Aren't we daft to accept it.
The dish got put up, nicely hidden, the digital box connected - but no sign of the card. After three days I was screaming at them, so they posted another. Still hasn't arrived. So last Monday, in desperation, I went to the pub.
I don't usually go to pubs, certainly not London ones. And I don't watch telly football with other people. I find human beings so irritating, with their stupid remarks, idiotic reactions. I have enough of my own.
The pub was called the Duke of York, last time I looked. It's now gone upmarket with a poncey name. I thought: that's good, bound to be nice and quiet, no noisy lads. And it was. Very quiet. Practically empty.
I picked a comfy couch in front of the huge screen, put my jacket on it, and went to the bar for a drink of er, I dunno, what do I drink in pubs? I'd had my supper, drunk most of a bottle of Beaujolais. I don't drink after a meal, so I tell myself. All these urban problems. Then I saw a cappuccino machine.
I took my coffee to my couch - and found two girls sitting on it. They budged up a bit, reluctantly. "Are you going to smoke?" I asked them. Quite politely, so I thought. "Piss off," they said.
I moved to a wooden seat, very hard and uncomfortable, much closer to the screen than I wanted. My neck was soon aching, having to stare up, my eyes hurt, my ears were battered by all the noise as the pub filled up.
To my left was a pool table where a couple of teenage waifs were playing. She was pale, deathly looking. He looked like Lee Bowyer, or perhaps Jeffers of Arsenal, if not quite as deprived.
Behind me, the two girls were indeed smoking, while each was busy on their mobile phone at the top of their voice, fucking this, pissing that, ha ha ha. They showed no apparent interest in the game. What were they doing here? On my couch. Which I'd bagged. At the bar, about a dozen lads stood half-watching the game, but mainly talking, smoking and laughing as they supped their pints, pausing only to give an ironic cheer when any Man United player made a mistake. It was Man Utd-Everton. Not that anyone seemed to care, except me.
I came home absolutely knackered and went straight to bed. Hello, London. Goodness, how I've missed you.