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Barnes

Just keep saying it over and over and you start to understand it. In the dawn sunshine, it conjures ideas of France. Something rustic and solid. Quiet, yes, and definitely tranquil. Sensible white walls and heavy trunks of tree, twisted with wisteria and stock brokers and men of metaphorical and physical weight. Coffee in a plunger. Thick cream curtains that make your arms ache. Polished floors that remind you of the instability of life, and help you to hide the fear. Weeping women with the menopause. Teenage girls with long straight hair that will start to fall out in their forties. Boys smoking “pot” and playing snooker in the basement of their splendid family homes. St Paul’s School. Rowing. Oxford. Bicycles. Solicitors. Harrods recreational ground. Pubs without televisions and with jazz around the back. Snogging by the pond among the ducks. Feeling faint about your A-level results. Daddy. Mummy. Jessie, Jo-Jo, Dobs and Eds. Skips the dog. The cats. The horses in Ham. Towels from Egypt. Rugs from Persia. Garlic from Aix en Provence. The sound of water. The romance of war. A train to the National. Kew Gardens. Victoria Sponge on Fridays. Scones with Jizzie’s jam. A hankering for the countryside. Villages. Ponds. Converted barns. Writers who lunch. A vintage MG. Jogging. Sprinting. Rowing. Waitrose. Wine. Three-piece suits. Pink shirts with gold cuff-links passed down through generations. Kites. Tate postcards. Agas. Rubber boots. Tears. Stress. Golf. Squash. Sweat. Wimbledon. Bridles and other random collections of leather. Greek soap. Organic kale. East Sheen. Men who lunch. Men in sheds. Men who read the Telegraph. Heterosexuality. Independent bookshops. Surgeons. The Priory. Elm Guest House. Oil paint. Bathrooms with big mirrors. Bedrooms with books. A red Vespa. A baby-blue Vespa. Laughter — loud, assertive, defined. Clean pavements. Clean streets. Litter monitors. Trust funds. Pensions. Bees. Birds. Labs. Laughter. Laughter. Laughter. Barnes.

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