Christopher Stocks

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No island man no more?

Weird, busy, whirlwind, confusing, exhilharating few weeks. My birthday, off to Paris, couldn’t afford it but what the hell and a friend let us stay in his smart-but-tiny apartment on the swish Avenue Foch: freezing cold and icy pavements and lethal heaps of dog shit everywhere (just like Portland!) but wonderful too.

A couple of weeks before, chatting to our friend Ben Pentreath at his beautiful house in Littlebredy, I’d mentioned that I was thinking about moving back to London in search of work, when Ben’s friend Will said, ‘How about Alexa’s flat above you? She’s just moved out.’ Our ears pricked up, as both Ben and Will live in fantastic flats in Bloomsbury owned, bizarrely, by Rugby School. The following day we were emailing their agent, the following week we saw it, and the day after we got back from Paris the keys were ours – talk about serendipity.

It’s a tiny attic flat, six flights up, on Great Ormond Street, directly opposite the children’s hospital and just a five-minute walk from the British Museum or the Renoir Cinema. Around the corner is Lamb’s Conduit Street, with its quirky little shops (and Starbuck’s); Charles Dickens lived for a while two streets away, and Dombey Street is round the corner too; all in all it’s one of the nicest areas of central London you could hope to live. We still can’t quite believe it’s ours, but I’m expecting that feeling will wear off fairly quickly once the bills start coming in.

A few days on a gently deflating blow-up bed later and it was time to battle back down to Dorset through the ice and snow again for Christmas: my mum’s first Christmas without my dad, so we headed over and stayed with her and had a great time – as she said the only depressing moments were reading the Christmas cards that said ‘our thoughts will be with you at this sad time’. We raised a glass of wine to my dad, and had a beautiful (if slippery) walk across the fields through the dazzling soft snow, long gone by the sea but still lying thick and deep and uneven in Blackmore Vale.

So the New Year arrives with an exciting new start, as I exchange the island for the city again: I can’t wait to be back.

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