Humphrey would be proud of me. I appear to be going to Mornington Crescent almost every day. It’s a part of London I first learnt about in the stupid game of the same name on radio four. Like many places, the reality is not as romantic as the idea. It’s basically an extension of Camden High Street. One fine summer evening I thought I was going to get knifed by a ratboy called Sid as I tried to have a pint in the outside seats of The Lyttleton Arms – named for Humphrey the inventor of the game. Sid wanted to sell us his drugs so badly he got very angry when we honestly weren’t interested. Many a night I’ve been in the Lyttleton without such happenings, but it’s always the weird ones you remember isn’t it?
Living in London I got used to expecting these strange or lovely or upsetting or wonderful encounters with angry or broken or happy or bizarre people. There are just so many in this metropolis and when the barriers go down they go down completely. Even going through my phone, the numbers are saved with little stories… “Lils Random Train Girl” I can’t remember this at all. “Steve Waterloo Suicide Watch” – hell yeah I remember him. He was in a dark place – I caught his eye and reflexively asked if he was ok as the darkness was so visible. I bought him some drinks at Vaulty Towers and we talked for hours. Love and money – the combination, both going wrong at the same time. I think I was flush at the time so I got him dinner and put him on the train home. We texted the next day. I hope he sorted it out for himself somehow. “Dark Hair Drunk Snog Gideon Reeling” … well yeah. That kind of speaks for itself really. I remember her. I remember the night. There was a dog and a pub and a walk and a kiss. I didn’t ring that number because I couldn’t remember her name and I was ashamed. Our phone holds all these records, stored up in the cloud now and passed from device to device so they’re never truly lost unless we delete them. All these little digital memories in a little rectangle in our pocket. They’re all we’ve got of that open crazy world for now. The nightlife and the buzz that swings me round the city at night. In sober years just as much as in drunk ones I was eating up sensation here and probably remembering it even better. The drunk memories often devolve when I follow them too far into flashes of one of a million different late night dives. Bad music and worse wine at stupid prices. Faces in the half light drawling out ideas forgotten as soon the dawn breaks.
I miss it though. When I was working it was most nights, after the show, pissing it up the wall as I forgot there are other ways of winding out adrenaline. Six foot tall and male I could mostly get about at night with nothing but misplaced confidence and a loud voice. Despite some of the areas I’d be staggering around in I’ve very rarely hit a snag. I’ve only seen one knife pointed at me so far. I’ve been pickpocketed about three times, but two of those times I think I might have just dropped it. Either way I just don’t have a wallet anymore and that solves that one. But I still miss it. The throngs. The noise. The heat. The mess. We have been without for so long that it has started to smell romantic… It isn’t. It’s horrid.
I’m glad I’ve quit booze in the quiet time. It’s going to be harder now if things switch back on. But the worst bit is signed off.
And I went to Mornington Crescent again. So I’ve won.