There’s a little shop in South End Green that sells groceries. When I was living here over the glorious summer of lockdown I would get my booze substitutes from them. Ginger beers and kombucha and non-alcoholic beers. Anything bitter with a kick. I haven’t been here for ages but he recognised me – even without the beard. “You haven’t been here for months!” “Likely this will be one of the last times I see you,” I tell him. “My friend is losing her flat. By the way, you have excellent facial recognition.” He chuckles, and points to his colleague rearranging the drinks in the fridge. “I don’t need that. I have him,” he tells me cryptically, and the man at the fridge turns towards me. It’s not that he looks just like me. But there’s something. We study each other knowing that there’s something in the aspect. There was me being flattered that he’d remembered me from all that time ago. But it was because I look a bit like his mate, and back then we had precious little to stimulate us so that sort of thing sticks. “Hey look, it’s your weird cousin buying sugar again. You should get a hat like that “
We’ve all had a hell of a year, haven’t we? Dear God. I’m so busy I feel a bit panicky, but in 2019 I’d have been looking for even more to do. Then it all stopped. We had that summer. And I think we’ve all changed through it, and at the same time we’ve built stronger relationships with the people who work in our local store. For a while that guy behind the perspex screen was the only human I spoke to in a normal day.
Now it’s ghost tours and ghost stories, it’s castings and pencils. It’s splitting my time between London and Brighton. It’s getting Mao back to where he belongs. And it’s Hampstead.
Mao’s owner and her daughter are back in Oxford and they are desperate to see him. I know why as well. He’s a softie, and a wise old soul even though he’s feeling older now. I’ll be so sad to return him and I know Lou will be devastated as well. But he was only ever passing through our lives. A gift of soft company for the end of the lockdown period. He joined the snake and the guy in the shop as the things I could be with that moved of their own volition. And it was a good time. But as the seasons change it feels like a time of shift. Nothing lasts forever. We need to get the old man back to his family while he’s still healthy, and say farewell, and thank him for his boundless patience.
And Hampstead. I’m here again. Deadline is tomorrow. The sheets aren’t dry yet so I’ve put the heating on and slung them on the radiator. Tomorrow will be to do with moving what boxes we can, packing ones we can find and starting to ferry somebody else’s life to storage. I don’t like it. But I’m not sure what else to do really. She’s still in New Zealand.
I’m going to get an early bed, for me. It’s eight now. As soon as these sheets are dry I’m putting them on and I’m tucking up. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. I have to do a self tape and another walkthrough of the ghost tour. But I am kind of caught in the middle with this flat and I need to try to help the situation out…
I feel fried. Sleep is the answer. I think I’ve mostly learnt my lines for the tape… Will this be my last night here? Who knows. I’ll miss the view.