In Leeds today, for seven and a half hours (yes, I timed it) for, well, this not-exactly-unexpected event. Regular readers, those precious few of you, will know this is a prospect that never fills me with joy. A few snippets for you then…
Rachel walks through Leeds station concourse, hair uncharacteristically over her face in a manner that will only occur to her later as rather symbolic. She smiles wryly as her iPod serves up Gene, Sleep Well Tonight, containing the line "We'll leave this lay-by, this excuse for a town".
It takes less than 30 seconds for my Uncle to say something racist.
Uncle: So, how's life in the Big Smoke?
Me: It's all fine, fine.
Uncle: Do you still speak English down there, or what?
I respond along the lines of yes, it's just like anywhere else. Then, realising that could mean anything in his head, I tell the story of Lewisham and the BNP Mayoral candidate, quoting some of the choicer aspects of that News Shopper article and pointing out how it's all malicious lies. But from the appalling Jamaican accent showcased later, prompted by a spot on Sky Travel, I can only assume my arguments went in one ear and met nothing to stop them on the way out.
Overheard at the bar: "well, they put them in houses, but they want to keep their Gypsy ways…" which immediately made me think of Bill Bailey on QI, recounting the James Bond moment when two women settle a fight over a man "the Gypsy way". I don't think that's what this conversation was about, though.
At least I wasn't present, this time, when someone asked my Dad whether he wanted grandchildren some day (point of order: I am an only child); however, the asker did relay the conversation back to me a bit later, including their incredulity at Dad's response that he "can't think of anything worse". I love my Dad.
The usual conversations about my living in London, though they are now – after ten years – slightly more resigned to the idea that I may actually be happy here, and not considering moving back. It must be lovely to have that sense of warmth for the place you spend your formative years and not have to go searching for it. However, I would like to take all these people and stand them on Waterloo Bridge at night, and then ask them how they could possibly think I would ever leave.
And the vicar looked like Kevin Eldon. Which was disturbing on a number of levels.
On a note of vanity, I did at least get to discover that out of all family members of roughly my generation, I'm ageing the best of anyone. Like, by quite some way.
(Oh, and there's some other stuff that convinces me one branch of the family is turning into an episode of Shameless, but that's really not for here.)