I press send on a final email, pull an old ugly jacket on over my jumper, and go for a walk. It’s the first time in four days that I’ve done so. On Sunday, when I last left the house, it was warm but now there's almost something autumnal to the air. I want a walk I can get lost on, but there aren’t many streets I lose myself on anymore. Eight years on in London, always living in the same neighbourhood, the familiarity of everywhere is constant. I mourn memories of streets that I haven’t stopped on in a while and wonder who I was when I last walked down them. In this corner of the city, I’ve stepped on every stone twice.
Tonight though I try to walk loops to find new corners. I leave at six and stay out well past eight. This is the type of walking I did when I first moved here as a student, complete aimless wandering. Reading Woolf’s Street Haunting and spending days sitting in the sun of Somerset House. It would be idyllic if I wasn’t so lonely doing so. I walk around the back streets of Bloomsbury but can’t remember any of the words she wrote about them.
I go past pubs that still smell like cigarettes. Old butts are littered in the gutters and are now damp from the rain. The cement still warm from the day makes it seem like they’re steaming, just how hot water hits your hair in the shower after a night out and everything again smells like smoke again. Along these streets there are tiny hotels, I want to know their inner lives as they sit empty. The big hotels like the St. Pancras Renaissance are boarded up too and I think about the pool beneath its lobby I once spent a day swimming in. I kept walking along to the big blocks of Victorian flats on the Euston border where someone I used to know once lived. I looked up to its roof where I once had a drink looking over the Eurostar tracks watching the trains shift between stations.
Now, walking past the windows next to the pavement, I can see inside every apartment. I can name the scent of their laundry powder brands and spice blends being stirred into pots. I keep walking down through to the squares of Islington and look into the basement flat windows. I see someone rolling pizza dough below me. Their neighbour next door is having one delivered by a drenched delivery driver who wished he missed the rain. There are so many drivers ringing doorbells on my walk, I think that maybe by Thursday, everyone is a little tired of cooking.
There’s a rainbow in the sky and rainbows stuck to the windows of apartments. I forget the time and just as a fox flicks into a bush, the thunder of claps and pots and wooden spoons start. I clap along, alone in a small square in which I once stood with someone else. I feel silly because I swear no one else can hear me until a dog brushes past my ankles and its walker smiles from a distance.
I continue past more pubs, more sites of stories I love to tell at noisy parties, and think about how much I used to love going out on Thursdays. That night of not quite the weekend but close enough always felt more fun that Saturday. As I keep wandering around I realise I’m back in Bloomsbury. Looping the same streets and thinking the same thoughts. I need to write a letter to Nan, call Granda this weekend, start that project, and finish another. Check that the flowers arrive in time. Sometimes just like long and elaborate recipes, lists and steps overwhelm you too - other times they are what anchors you. Like so much it depends on the day.
I go past an off-license in the back of King’s Cross and buy six eggs, two grapefruits, and a bag of pistachios. An egg I will eat tonight, grapefruits will be for breakfast and I promise myself I’ll make pesto with the pistachios sometime soon. There are no perfect recipes for nights like this when your brain is overtired with itself - toast, a boiled egg, and something green will do I decide.
I start the walk home and glance up at the Shard, it's all backlit in blue and forget for a second as to why that would be. Back on my street and up into my lift I see myself in the mirror for the first time in what feels like a long time. I forget that I dyed my hair pink on the weekend and get a shock at the sight. There is a mess of mud flicked up to my thighs from the detours through parks. The grapefruit in my jacket pocket is bursting out and I can smell the oil of its skin as the lift moves to my floor. When I get in, Joe asks why I’ve been walking for so long. “I wasn’t planning to” I say thinking how nice it was to separate myself from the sofa. A pot of water goes on to boil, an egg is lowered in with a slotted spoon and a slice of bread is taken from the freezer.
I warm leftover greens and butter in a metal bowl on the rising heat from the boiling water. Joe reminds me of how I once boiled an egg in a mug with just hot water from a kettle when we were in Venice a few years ago. That wasn’t the breakfast I had planned in our little Venetian flat then just like this isn’t the dinner I was hoping to have now. This morning I had more elaborate ideas for dinner tonight, candles, crockery and something with lots of stirring - but sometimes plans aren’t really the point. Too often what we get out of the ashes from days gone wrong are better than we hoped for when we started - tonight that’s enough for me. Six minutes later Siri tells me my timer is done and the egg is lifted into a cup. The toast is buttered, greens are tipped onto the plate and everything is generously sprinkled with crunchy crystals of salt. That’s it - that’s the recipe. There is not much to it but in that, there is also a lot.