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And, stepping off the South West cattle cart stuffed with workers in various stages of mental undo, my Oyster in the red because the agent at Finsbury Park had grossly underestimated how much it would take to get to Zone Six, I got the sick sensation of maybe having to eat my preconceived notions.It was the blackest of nights, as if designed to set off the dazzlingly white, art deco station, with its elegant rectangles and romantic sans-serif fontage, to best advantage. Closing my eyes, I sensed cocos nucifera, hummingbird and murdered starlet on the breeze; until an ear-cracking wind slammed into me, knocking the fantasy out cold (I hadn’t worn a hat, lest I get hat-hair for the date(s)).
She’d been crying all day, she said, and we didn’t need to ask why: her younger sister had just had a baby, and was now living in Janet’s house in Mitcham along with a husband who never let her touch the new arrival. On my way to the station I’d had to press my tongue firmly to the top of my mouth, and tip my head back, in an effort to staunch the flow of tears provoked by the memory of my dear-departed love, and by the thought of what I was about to subject myself to.
Unlike Nanna, my love wasn’t dead – though I did consider telling people he’d perished in Hurricane Sandy after he dumped me over Skype with that force of nature tip-tapping at his Brooklyn windows as he did the dirty deed.
“So you’re depressed, you’re hung over, and you’re grieving.
“No point buying a thicker coat now, winter’ll soon be over,” she’d said. As I write this, the sky outside my window is sloughing its first spring snow. The pub was a mini Orkney, not a lady in sight, only rugged men with frost-nibbled beards hugging pints and staring at us as if we were quarry shipped in from the Far East to replace local female stock escaped to parts less chilly and depressing, like Kingston.
I ordered two rum and cokes (normal, not spiced – we’re not complete Jezebels), and asked myself the question every speed dater sporting two X chromosomes must: why were we bothering to pay fifteen smackers to meet men when there were so many free ones lying about? Rhi had been out the night before, and could barely stop her eyes from shutting; if I still smoked, I would’ve propped them open with matchsticks.
Before long, we were joined by Janet, our third stooge, who wafted in out of the cold looking like she might be naked under her snow coat. My nanna had died the day before, but I figured she would’ve wanted me to find love, even if I didn’t.She’d died her hair Bratislava Red but, despite her make-up, looked wan. Fresh-torn from an eight-year relationship, I was still an open wound under my sticking-plaster smile. I was already fifteen quid down from having signed myself up to “Date in a Dash” in the first place. “Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound,” I sighed, scuttling off into the bathroom to squidge dye on my roots, “you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs.” To be fair, the town’s founding fathers should’ve given the place a less synthetic name. in Surrrrr-bi-ton,” I sneered into many an ear prior to the event, laying out insult and injury in turn. It was even further south than Clapham, and might not even be in London. ” I moaned, already totting up how much it was going to cost on my pay-per-go.As the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan is represented by a prickly pear on which a snake-wrestling eagle perches majestic, so Surbiton’s glyph, going by title alone, should be a bowl of towny soup going cold, with Waterloo choo-choos and Pooterish commuters drowning in the gloop.But it just goes to show: don’t judge an area formerly within the County of Surrey by its moniker.