Not Vanilla

I woke from a dream in which I was in a classroom of sorts. There were other students and we were all waiting for our teacher. DH turned up, late as usual and singled me out, talking about me in front of the class. It was jocular, or at least it appeared to be. He didn’t embarrass me, if that had indeed been his attention. It had been years, and he seemed as pleased to see me as I had been to see him. The class was on Thomas Hardy.

I wrote some notes in my notebook on the train, notes I would’ve used to write my journal the morning after. I never got the chance. The first was about two boys sitting on a bench in the Castle Park. It was dark, all I could hear as I approached them was the hum of their voices in the gloom. One of them was leaning forward and pointing to the ground. There’s Whitehall, he was saying. Then I wrote about being on the train. I love setting off, anything could happen. And then in the station café. It was a Starbucks and they always ask you your name so they can write it on the cup. Why not give yourself another name? I thought. So I did. I even spelt it out but he still wrote it wrong. Then in the next station café, a Pumpkin this time with a perfectly dreadful coffee in my hand,  I sat and listened to four women of a certain age chatting as they waited for their train. I think they were going to Chelsea, though were unperturbed by the cancellation of the London train so perhaps I got it wrong. They were talking about a hotel or country club when I sat down. They are completely rigid over afternoon tea, said one.  And I’ve been with you, said another, and we had a champagne evening. We’d had the menu chosen and everything, replied the smallest one with tiny, black, bird-like eyes, but they don’t really care. This lovely man called Cosmo, said the red-head, apropos of nothing. To the right of them a woman in a navy coat was talking on the phone. She held a speaker to her mouth. She stood. She looked like R. and mentioned Steve Redgrave. To the left of the women a man was also on the phone, a large man striding back and forth. And I was saying to Graham, he said, still walking to and fro, ‘not vanilla’ is a phrase he loves.