I remember when I’d first moved to London, and I rode the bus to work, the bus from Brixton to Holborn, squashed up on the top deck with all the other commuters, face pressed against the window, not wanting to miss a moment of my new city. We’d snake our way down the Strand and past the Lyceum Theatre and its floor-to-roof length posters for the Lion King musical.
I’d wanted to see it since those days. I never did. I slowly convinced myself I’d built it up in my head to be more magical than it could ever be.
My cousin bought me “you won’t get to see a musical again for a good while, so here you go” tickets to see The Lion King.
I was wrong. It was more magical than I could have imagined.
I cried four times during the first half and I don’t think I can even blame hormones. The music, and the costumes, and the half-human-half-animals that dance across the stage are a thing of beauty. The whole theatre is used, and celebrated, in an epic performance that never fails to surprise, and make audience members ranging from 5 to 60 years old gasp out loud. The story is familiar but moments happen that you don’t expect. It plays with your expectations and your mind. It’s about family and love and loss and power and learning and you see that on stage in a way the film just can’t teach you. If you’re in London, and you fancy some wonder, just go, I beseech you.
Autumn came to the UK. The summer was beautiful, and so so warm, and stretched out for weeks, and it made people happy, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But my God was it hot. I spent most of it in clothes that no longer fit, feeling two degrees hotter than everyone else, lying prone on any available surface, feeling like a beached whale. I was given my own personal fan at work to stop me wilting. And then Autumn came, the leaves started turning colour, the air got crisper, and I suddenly wanted to walk through the forest and find blackberries and marvel at what the sun does to the forest floor when it breaks through the leaves.
It’s strange that autumn is about dying, and that the beauty you see around you, the reds and the golds, are decay. We think beauty is in life, in energy and vitality, when it’s not always. Here, the magic is in the last few weeks of life.
I went away for a few days to Barcelona. I slept a lot, and ate tapas, and stood with my feet in the sea. I walked a lot. I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a shop window.
“How can you still fancy me?” I wailed to Mr K, in an uncharacteristic moment of self pity. “I’m as wide as I am tall! I look like a piece of architecture!”
“You’re still Anna, there’s just more of you. It’s like when we bought the Golf Plus instead of the Golf. You’re Anna Plus.”
“Same model, just more boot space?”
It’s really hard to be miffed at an analogy like that. That’s his sorcery, to turn me from borderline despair to laughter with a few words.
I’m a sucker for a good quote. I’m not fussy about where I find them, or what they’re about. When I was younger I would diligently write every good quote I found in a notebook, ranging from the cringeworthy (boy band lyrics) to the pretentious (highbrow literature) to everything in-between. I’ve branched out into facts, too. Nothing cheers my day up more than coming across that LSBF advert that informs us that “otters hold hands when sleeping, so they don’t float away from each other”.
At Tooting Bec tube station, lucky commuters have a “thought for the day” at the top of their escalator. I wish every station did this.
Words have their own power. These have the power to change a commute from something to be endured to something where you can get lost in your own thoughts.
And I recently received this beautiful card from Anita. I’d told her about how I was trying not to let work take quite such a large slice of my Life Pie, and she found this card and sent me this:
This weekend, I went to Liverpool for Rach M’s hen do. My mum went to college in Liverpool and loved it. I was always going to be biased in favour of the city but I wasn’t expecting to feel for it in quite the way I did. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, the air was crisp, and Liverpool shone.
I stepped off the train at Liverpool Lime St station and tried to imagine how my mum must have felt, coming hereat 18, all the way from Cornwall, where she’d grown up on a farm. Whether she felt fear or excitement or both. Whether she shied away from the people and the noise and the pollution, or whether she just got on with it. I suspect the latter.
Rachel led us on a literary tour of Liverpool. It was the most perfect way to see the city. We started at Derby Square, the former site of Liverpool Castle, where a huge, neo-Baroque statue of Queen Victoria stands in the centre. Our cab driver was very excited to hear this. Adopt a scouse accent if you will:
“Ah, Queen Vic! What a place to start! You know, she’s holding an orb. If you walk around the statue, you get to an angle where it looks as though she’s jacking someone off”
He got a couple of beats of silence out of a cab full of women, I’ll give him that. For research purposes, I checked it out. It’s true. She does.
I loved the people, the architecture, the way the wind came off the Mersey. The accent, I loved the accent. The Georgian doorways. I loved how you could get change from a tenner from a round, and that people would speak to us, laugh with us, be excited for us wherever we were. No self-consciousness.
I also loved that there were no knobbers in the whole group. There’s usually always one, on a hen. Not on this one. Thanks for having me, Rach.
This photograph has provoked more speculation on Facebook than I think anything ever has. What exactly were our readers/writers doing in this one moment to make this picture the elaborate dance that it is? Why are Aisling and Rebecca pointing at Mahj, and in the process giving Katielase a moustache? Are they exposing Mahj’s quite supreme photobomb above Kirsty’s head? And what, exactly is Kirsty doing? Is she leaping in to try and save the situation? I wanted to run this as a caption competition, and readers, you’re welcome to try, but I’ve spent weeks mulling this one over and I’m all out.
You’ll be in a queue in a supermarket, or sitting on an interview panel, or presenting in a meeting. Kick. Kick. Whooosh…there you go, right on your bladder, right under your ribcage. That kid doesn’t care where you are. You have to become the master of your facial expressions, so as not to terrify the people around you. Or make them think you’ve got trapped wind. All the books tell you the kid’ll wait to do its somersaults and hiccups and kicking routine until you’re lying on your sofa, watching TV, relaxing at night, and that’s when you’ll smile quietly and feel the bond growing.
Not true. They really don’t care about waiting until you’re ready to have your magical bonding moment. It’s like a contest. You have to hide the fact that your belly just moved in front of 20 people, because that kid is mischievous, and knows you don’t want it to win. The kid’s got the measure of you and it isn’t even born yet.
That’s magic, right there.