Last night my dear, lovely friend John turned up unexpectedly from Hong Kong. I first met him there many years ago when I was travelling around the world with my daughter. Since then I have spent time with him in London, Shanghai and again in Hong Kong.
In addition to teaching English, I did all sorts of weird jobs while I was first in Hong Kong all those years ago: working as an extra on a 'noodle Western' Chinese-language movie whose title I never discovered, hostessing in a karaoke bar (hired, as you will guess if you have ever heard me sing, for my ability to drink half a bottle of the clients' brandy in one sitting rather than for my tuneful voice), supervising children's parties while dressed as a brown bear, sewing fancy dress costumes...
Sometimes when I was working I would ask John to look after Lauren for me. By then she would have been about five years old. He was a musician (he still is) and some days he would take her busking on the MTR, which she thought was a great treat as she was allowed to wear her ballet costume and collect the money. I know it sounds like begging but at the time it seemed like a marvellous adventure.
But then, with John, even the most mundane exchanges are inherently amusing and everything somehow turns into a marvellous adventure. Yesterday I called to confirm that I was on my way to meet him near Leicester Square:
John: You don't have to come if you're busy.
Me: No, I want to see you. I'm on the bus.
John: You're in the bath?
Me: I'm on the bus.
John: Ach, well don't worry about it, if you're not even dressed yet.
Me: John? I'm on my way. I'm riding on a big, red moving vehicle.
John: [long pause] You're...? I don't even... Give me a call when you get out of the bath.
And then, about five minutes after I turned up to meet him, we were surrounded by a Brazilian band playing very jolly music. Was life always like that when I first knew him, twenty years ago? Or have I forgotten the boring bits? Maybe it is just the way things are when I'm with John.