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#fridayflash : London Nights

Jane hopes that she doesn’t meet Richard Curtis anytime soon. If she did, she’d tell him exactly what she thinks of his movies.

Especially if it were raining when they met.

Because Jane notices when it rains in London. Jeez, does anyone not? Yes. Looking at you, Andie MacDowell! Jane doesn’t think that having Hugh Grant’s character, or any other man for that matter, being a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to… whatever he wanted to freaking well ask her, and could ask her just fine in a dry coffee shop or bar somewhere, would stop her from noticing, actually. London rain either whips around and through you, cutting into your skin or it seeps into your very soul until you feel cold, damp and frizzy and NOT REMOTELY lovely and serene.

Originally, Jane wanted to tell Richard Curtis what she liked best about his films: the self-deprecating and quirky humour; the male heroes who fight like girls and have floppier hair; the way that a disparate range of beautiful people and eccentrics come together to form a cosy circle of friends; the way he made daunting, big city London feel more like it was made up of villages or communities, each with their own distinct personality. But damn it, the man has pushed her to her very limits and she will not be telling him that ANY LONGER. No, she won’t. At least, not until he’s apologised for getting her over here under false pretences. And then – and ONLY then – might she reconsider.

You see, so far, Jane’s move to London hasn’t been the dazzling success she’d hoped, despite her best efforts to make it live up to the dream she’d seen on screen in the movie theatre all those miles back home. Her reboot of Richard Curtis’ original has been a dismal flop. She’s had more weepy evenings in the flat by herself, than she’s had pints in the local.

PUB.

She pops the word in her mouth like a bubble, and sounds like Mr Bean. PUB. PUB. PUB. More fun to say than to be in, when you’re a single woman on your own. She can’t get used to the leering pick up lines and doesn’t find it sweet or quaint the way they always end with a darling or a love, actually.

She wrote down some of their chat up lines in Miss Jones, the name she’s given her diary. She thought if she called it after Bridget ‘that most famous of diarists’ Jones that she’d wake one morning to find all her questions about British etiquette or language – oh jeez, especially the language! – had miraculously been answered. But no, Miss Jones isn’t helping her one bit. She is firmly on her own in this. The language was a much bigger barrier than she ever expected it to be, and when she went into the language school on Oxford Street, the receptionist thought she was ‘having a laugh’ when she’d asked about British classes for English speakers. She’d taken a form to fill in for teaching vacancies and hurtled back downstairs and out onto the sidewalk, no wait… the pavement, stupid word, where she was elbowed along until she could duck into Waterstone’s bookstore.

The appeal of living near the overground station has worn off now that the rumbling and murderous squealing of passing trains continues to keep her awake two months after her arrival. And she’s finding that this isn’t like the extended holiday she had it down for. Having to do all the same chores as back home has kind of taken the edge off it. And she’s never seen any cute guys in the local laundromat.

Still, Jane tells herself, I’m not a quitter and this she says out loud, “Tonight, I am going OUT ON THE TOWN”.

Her colleagues don’t even look up when she says this. They’re packing up for the week and frankly, they’ve gotten used to her. They no longer tease her about her “lack of a volume control” and besides, this evening, Jane doesn’t give a hoot what they think. She closes down her computer, ignores the clean desk policy and heads for the elevator.

Standing in the foyer, Jane imagines it’s the city breathing in and out each time she hears the rhythmic suck and thwap of the revolving door. Her shoulders drop and she starts to relax. Then, she launches herself forward, cutting in front of a couple of colleagues. The door thwaps and sucks and thwaps again before pushing her out into the early evening flow of human traffic.

Jane drops out of the scurry of worker ants making their way along High Holborn towards the tube station or the bars and theatres in town. She takes side streets all the way to Seven Dials and buys some old-fashioned candy from a street stall. Popping one in her mouth, she wanders a few metres down Monmouth Street until she reaches The Two Brewers. She stands outside, sucking on her sweet, watching huddles of friends (not hers, or not yet hers) head in her direction: ties loosen, heels stumble and clack, men shout quips, women laugh their responses, before they all tumble headlong like puppies into the pub.

Jane looks both ways along the street and then up past all the street lights and buildings into the softly darkening night sky. She imagines the city shrugging on a wizard’s robe of velvet folds and stars at the end of the working day and, for the first time, thinks there’s something very special about London at night. It has become a magical place full of light, shadows, laughter and possibilities.

After a cough and a Bridget shrug, she puts her hand to the pub door, pushes it open and scoots up to the bar and orders before she can wuss out.

Tonight, she thinks even Richard Curtis would be proud of this new emerging heroine, Jane. From Maine.

Comments

John Wiswell
Reply

Her internal feelings about trivia – like the fighting styles of certain men in certain movies – made this piece for me. Got a few smiles at a very tired and sore point of my night. Thank you.

kath
Reply

I was hoping some of them would be funny, given the films she liked. Happy to have made you smile. Thanks, John.

marc nash
Reply

I used to work in Notting Hill Gate and the hordes of tourists who would come to gawp at the blue front door of the house used in the film of the same name was baffling- the door mind, not the house which of course would have been shot in a studio. There were apochryphal tales that Curtis part wrote it in full knowledge that it would ramp up property prices so he could make a killing on his own W11 home…

By the way I think you mispelled it, London Reign, not raion. Except in South London of course, where the pavements (sidewalks) stain darker than in North London when wet

A.Londoner

kath
Reply

Cheers, guv’nor! Thanks for putting me right on London Reign.

And I’m not too surprised to hear how much attention that blue front door attracted. It always surprises me to hear what our visitors want to see when they come to the UK and I can only wonder what impression they take away with them of this country!

peggy
Reply

This was just plain fun. I’ve never been, but now I want to visit London even more.
Funny, I read Mark Nash’s story first, this one second, and I’m getting immersed in language and its many facets.

Adam Byatt
Reply

A very clever piece. Loved the idea of taking on a film maker for their idealisation of a city.
Adam B @revhappiness

~Tim
Reply

I like the humor in this. Poor Jane. I suppose that someone should have (gently) broken the news to her that movies aren’t real. 😉

Fennie
Reply

Love it. Let’s have more Jane from Maine.

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