so! we are in london, and such

Can I say again how woefully, how pathetically grateful I am that the kids are such stoic little travellers? Sleeping where they can, soaking up the seat-back video, willing to be entertained at the baggage carousel, enthralled by the spectacle out the window of the Heathrow Express. The night after we arrived was a little Gothic. We had a great dinner with Grant on Store Street – Julia is still head over heels in love with him, and as McKenze said, her irises turn into little cartoon hearts when she looks at him – and we all got to bed at a reasonable hour. Then we all woke up again, and when Julia started crying for food at 3am I had to walk to the nearest 24 hour grocery store, which turned out to be across the street from Kings Cross station, which is about a million billion trillion light years from our hotel.

The Euston Road is different at night; also, it was incredibly hot. I was in a tank top. Apparently I am still, just barely, cute enough for various handsome young Londoners to take a chance on, at least in dim light when there are no other girls around. Every neon light turned out to be a place of business that was closed. The store, when I found it, was twenty yards past where I had already given up once. I caught a black cab home because my feet were a mass of blisters. When the cab driver dropped me at the hotel with my plastic bag full of cornflakes and milk and yogurt and orange juice, he asked “Going to work?” and I had a very complicated reaction of “No my jetlagged kids are in there but as a FEMINIST I totally support all the women who ARE.” Which was probably a bit too nuanced a message for 4am, judging by his expression.

At 8am I was at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone wearing my new Calvin Klein pleated little black dress and t-strap heels over the blisters. The conference went very well, I thought, although I was flying on empty for most of it. There was an especially nice moment in the bar at the end when I was reminded that (dear God I hope they never read this) I genuinely like and respect several of my colleagues to the point of near-friendship.

Oh! Our fancy schmancy speaker was Professor Brian Cox, of D:Ream keyboard and Manchester physics fame, so Jeremy and Kirsty and the kids came along to join the fun. The girls hid behind my skirt when I introduced them to him, and afterwards Julia said: “That was really cool for you, wasn’t it, mama?” Can we at least PRETEND I am doing this for the sake of the children? No? OKAY THEN. Brian Cox is a great speaker, do hire him, he made us do math, but then he had me at his first slide, which was the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Respect, sir.

We took the girls out for pizza that night and Turkish the next night and altogether too many glasses of Marlborough sauvignon blanc were involved, so that by 3am Thursday I awoke with a mighty hangover as well as jetlag and the standard post-conference loss of the will to live. I couldn’t get back to sleep either, so I slithered into the office at 9am and sat shivering at my desk till 3pm before slithering home to sleep. Jeremy and the girls came home at 5pm, joyous after a day at the science museum, and we all trundled out to Grant’s place for more sauvignon blanc. I thought I would surely die of jetlag, but was revived by meringues and double cream, and came home to sleep a SOLID NINE HOURS and now I feel like a valid and worthwhile human being once again.

For future reference: after the piddling little sleeps on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon I kept waking up and feeling worse and worse, which confused me because all I wanted was sleep, and it wasn’t until this morning that I realized the problem was I wasn’t getting a long enough sleep in a single go. I needed a couple of REM cycles or whatever to reset my clock.

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