A few days after I return from Spain, my Godson and Mexican cousin, Javi, turns up in London for the start of his European tour. When he was last in England, he was 15 and dependent on me to organise his time. Javi is now in his last year at university and somehow seems to have friends all over Europe and to know more people in London than me. I am no longer needed to shepherd him around town. In fact, I soon realise that pretty much the only time I get to see him is when I step over him and assorted amigos (and amigas) on the living room floor on my way to the kitchen in the morning.
The third day he is here is my birthday. He buys me a cake. Then he eats it. He leaves me a note to tell me how good it was.
The next day, I take Javi to see my brother, who is a photographer and has kindly agreed to take the publicity shots for my book. My brother, Andrew, spent his youth living in flats in the centre of London that could, with a lick of paint, have passed for crack dens. He now lives in suburban Hertfordshire, but to be honest, I prefer the crack dens. His present house, which at least has the virtue of being temporary, is about five centimetres from the east coast train line. Conversations have to pause for trains to pass, and crockery to stop rattling.
Even though I can barely hear him, it is good to see Andrew, Charlotte and their young family. They are the most infectiously cheerful people I know. Trevor, my publisher, told me any photos would be fine as long as I wasn’t grinning. Andrew takes over a hundred shots. I am grinning on most of them.
Javi watches the photo shoot for a while, and chips in with the occasional sarcastic “Que bonito!” He then goes to the kitchen and, unable to wait until supper, eats an entire pack of chocolate biscuits, which Andrew had explained he’d bought as a present for Charlotte, who is seven months pregnant. But because of the trains, Javi hadn’t heard him.