Tag Archives: lily

Ahoy deck season…

‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go. You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs on a particularly warm day last April.

That morning I had stepped out of my bedroom to see the sun shining brightly through the glass panel above the front door. I felt warm in its reflected rays. So with a reinforced optimism, I went back into my room to dress accordingly: a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to here is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks,’ Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the replenished Buddha heads and plant pots after his recent trip to Homebase and TK Maxx. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

‘I’ll come back later,’ I say.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. Lily rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as Demon Cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here,’ he says, wandering back inside. Continue reading

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Life with Lilac

I moved to Barnes the following weekend. I don’t remember much about it except my stuff fitting in the one car. Whether it was Jack or Lily’s car, I’m unsure.  They both came with me. I can’t even remember if Henry was there. Henry is Lily’s younger half-brother, then sixteen. I’d also met him in the hallway the previous weekend. He’d seemed a bit embarrassed by the whole affair. Although I think that’s because Lily asked for some sort of reaction in response to the idea that I might move in. It’s hard for anyone to muster up excitement for a stranger to move in let alone possibly sharing a house with a stranger. I think Lilac might’ve been pottering upstairs in her room. She’d potter a lot. I remember one day, she locked herself in her bedroom to paint her furniture. The fumes stunk out the entire house. I went upstairs to check she was OK.

‘Can you really smell it?’ she asked, popping her head around the door. Lilac was wearing her nightie and slippers and had her glasses on, worn only when real concentration was necessary.

‘I’m glad your windows are open. I really think you should keep the door open, too,’ I said.

‘I’m hoping I’ll get high on the fumes,’ she said, laughing to herself.

I only stayed in Barnes for about two months, which is strange because it felt like home for much longer. Although Crazy Yank was a prominent figure before we even met.

‘People call him Shark Attack. He’s a lot of fun to go out with. But we’re just friends now. He’s going to love you. He’ll be after you,’ were the first impressions Lilac gave me.

‘Why is he called Shark Attack?’ It seemed a disturbing nickname for a middle-aged man let alone one raising two kids on his own.

‘Because when he’s in bar, he fishes out the talent,’ she said, laughing.

Lily and Henry didn’t find their mother’s friend quite so amusing. One day, I picked up the landline to this broad New York accent:

‘Hey, is that Lilac or Lily?’

‘It’s Saskia actually. I can go and get Lilac for you?’

‘Cool. I’m coming over to pick her up. We’re going drinking.’

‘Great. I’ll just get her for you.’ I passed the phone to Lilac who didn’t say very much. She giggled a lot.

‘He told me he digs your British accent,’ Lilac said after she got off the phone.

Ten minutes later, Crazy Yank was circling the front door. I opened it and introduced myself. He was tall and broad, wearing a dark polo shirt and long chino shorts with a handsfree phone piece stuck to his right ear. His black shades matched his head of receding hair, which was swept back. I can’t remember what we talked about but I remember Lilac coming home and telling me that he had told her: ‘I dig that hippy chick.’ Granted I had short hair at the time and nothing on my feet but I didn’t realise this made me Sandy Shaw.

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London calling

I haven’t always been a reluctant lodger. I’d arranged to stay with Jack’s family in their (now former) home in north London. I’d met Jack the previous summer when we were thrown together in a flat above a laundrette in a small Hampshire town while we were training to be journalists. Now in London, and with regional magazine placements done, it was time to take up our permanent residence at the magazine company’s headquarters.

But I didn’t stay in north London very long. After a week or so, Lily, my friend and Jack’s then-girlfriend, said that her Mum’s lodger had fled to Poland. I didn’t see this as a sign. Maybe I should have? But having grown-up in the south-west, I was comforted upon my first visit to Barnes. My knowledge of London was still severely limited at this point and I was oblivious to the affluence and high population of yummy mummies in this suburban sanctuary. We took Lily’s highland terriers for a walk around Barnes pond. I didn’t feel like I was in London, which I liked.

 We went back to the house where Lily’s mum, Lilac, came half-way down the stairs to meet me. Meeting Lilac was the start of the end as a twenty something living with other twenty somethings for the next 18 months. I’d soon be living with her Crazy Yank ex-boyfriend – nearly my father’s age – his two kids and Demon Cat. No one knew this of course as she stood smiling, with her head at a jaunty angle on her beige staircase and I, as green as can be, looking up saying it was nice to meet her.  This, ladies and gentleman, is the real story but not where it begins.

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