The countryside is all very well so long as you know you can leave it. Funnily enough, exactly the same can be said for the town. I realise I have spent the entire year trying to decide whether to sell up and move from London to the wilds of Surrey. Or stay put in Balham. I’ve spent more evenings on Zoopla than can possibly be healthy. And now I think about it, I guess the reason I have struggled so hard to make a choice is that town and country are dependent on each other to produce their own special magic.
I cannot enjoy the country unless I know I can leave the mud, muck and gossip behind and escape to London. And I cannot enjoy London unless I know I can run away from the liberal lefties, abusive cyclists and endless box junctions to find solace in the mud.
As such, it is possible that the place where I am happiest is the A3. For it is on the A3 that I know I am escaping to somewhere better. It is a great relief to finally work this out. And because it is the end of the year and I’m feeling reflective, I thought I would do a quick review of all the other things I have learned in 2014.
First, I cannot fight more than one legal battle. I may have been able to fight the couple who claim I injured them in a prang on Streatham High Road before I began fighting HS2 Ltd for compensation for the collapse in value of my parents’ home. But I cannot fight both together. I know this because I tried and as the two legal battles collided, and I was emailing two sets of lawyers at once, a girl from an estate agent in Cobham rang to inquire about my house search, as these people are apt to do, and I screamed into the phone: ‘Why?! Why are you doing this to meeeeeee!!’
Clearly, one battle will have to go and if I must give in to someone, it’s going to have to be the Slobs, who three years on still haven’t issued proceedings properly. I’ve just heard that the statute is being extended for another four months. I’m on the verge of giving up. I feel like saying: Well done. Have a slap-up holiday to Magaluf and a new plasma screen on me. I’ve got more important things to worry about. Like how, as I approach 43, I know only three men I would like to marry and all of them are gay.
I have no idea whether the builder boyfriend is a prospect. I’ve lost the will to go on trying to work out what we are up to. You think you’re confused by how many times we’ve broken up and got back together? Imagine how I feel. If you and my mother can’t keep up with this relationship, then what chance have I got?
Which brings me to some very practical things I’ve learned, during the periods when the builder has been hors de combat: I cannot find the battery in a Volvo XC90, put a wardrobe door back on its hinges, or get the TV on to AV2. I have spent many hours trying to learn, but it was time wasted.
Sans husband, sans hope of husband, I am going to have to find a handyman again. Sadly, Stefano the Albanian is no longer returning my calls. Which leaves Tony, the Oxford-educated plumber — and he insists on a Newsnight-style discussion of the economy at my kitchen table before he will begin to fix anything. So I might just let everything break. So far, I’ve got one dehinged wardrobe door and a TV that’s just snow because I can’t get it on to AV2, and the world is still turning on its axis. It’s a relief to realise it’s an option to let everything fall to pieces.
But possibly the most astounding thing I’ve discovered this year is this: a glass of sparkling water makes a really loud noise. Underneath, or possibly above, the sound of the fizzing, there is another sound, as the noise of the bubbles rebounds off the glass. It is a thin, piercing ring. You think you’ve got tinnitus when you first hear it, as you sit alone with your supper for one. After a while, you have to put a saucer over the top of the glass to make it stop.
The pianist Glenn Gould used to hear infinitesimally small noises as if they were deafening and, now I come to think about it, he was a recluse. As I am hearing the full tonality of a glass of water, therefore, it might be a good idea to have as my New Year’s resolution: must get out more.
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