Magazine article The Spectator

Time for One More

Magazine article The Spectator

Time for One More

Article excerpt

At the end of the affair she gathered together everything of mine that was lying about in her flat, packed it all into the suitcase I'd left behind, and left a message to tell me to come and pick it up. I didn't return the call. When we finally met again last week, at The Spectator's 180th birthday party, we hadn't spoken for eight months.

After the party I went back to her flat to pick up the suitcase. It was standing ready to go, just inside her front door. But we found we had a lot to say to each other, a lot of catching up to do, and I stayed on for three delightful days, including a miraculous afternoon in the Arcadian Kent countryside that finished with a ham and cheese roll on a grassy knoll beside the lake at Lullingstone Castle.

When I finally got around to leaving, the thorny question of the suitcase arose. It was a point of principle, she said, and she was sticking to it, that I couldn't simply walk away from our relationship, leaving my accumulated detritus behind. I opened the case and rooted through the contents to remind myself of what I'd left. Tightly packed inside were shorts, shirts, ties, pyjamas, jeans, socks, shaving paraphernalia, reading glasses, two pairs of slippers, a cricket jumper and a bottle of ink. Also a T-shirt I didn't recognise. I held it up. On the front it said: 'Chaos, Mayhem, Panic: My Work Here Is Done'. 'This isn't mine, babe, ' I said.

It was a present, she said. From her to me.

She doesn't normally give exes presents, she said, but she couldn't resist this one because it was so appropriate. She was going to post it, then resolve turned to apathy and she shoved it in the case with my other stuff. I put it on and we said goodbye. She didn't come to the front door. I pulled the door shut behind me, and set out, in my souvenir T-shirt, with my bag of debris, across the blazing pavements of south London.

The plan was to go by train from south London to east London to attend a football match, then to go to Paddington in west London to catch my train back to the West Country. Various engineering works in progress meant that the first leg of the journey was fraught with difficulties, anxieties, dashed hopes and bus-replacement services. …

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