I am good at the overarching plans but not at the small details. I am your ideas person. “Let’s go to India for a week, for Holi,” was one of my more recent ideas. It had been on my “list” for ages, by which I do not mean an actual list, not even a bucket list, but a mental list. The kind of list that really only has one thing on it, like Go to India for Holi, because I can’t remember more than that without writing it down.
Sam said yes, and I booked flights, and then felt like I’d already accomplished my goal. It was only in stages that we realised that we needed to make sure certain things were in place, like a visa, and vaccinations. Sam made us an appointment at the Boots in Dalston, but when we arrived they didn’t have any of the shots we needed. “You can go to the Boots in Wood Green,” the man behind the counter said, helpfully, forgetting that no one wants to go to Wood Green, not even the people who live there.
Instead, the next day we agreed to meet at our local Clockwork Pharmacy after work, which incidentally is owned by the same people who own the freehold of our building, Clockwork Mews. The sign outside our flat is the same as for the pharmacy: a blue and orange tablet.
I have cycled as ferociously as I can muster after a day spent in the stark glow of artificial lighting, and I arrive at 5:44. A small elderly Indian man is locking up. I am off my bike, looking both ways down the street, for either a place to lock up my bike quickly or for Sam. I see neither, but my frantic behaviour has caught the attention of the pharmacy manager.
“Excuse me, can I help you?” he asks, tentatively. It’s not advisable to start provoking crazed individuals in Hackney.
“I need vaccines!” I blurt out, doing nothing to allay his fears. “For travel, to India,” I add quietly.
He shakes his head and continues to pull down the shutters over the storefront.
“Ah, you’re too late,” he says, regrettably. “My pharmacist is sick and needs to go home. Usually we close at 7pm, but tonight, 6!”
I’m envious of anyone who can make these kind of executive decisions over their working lives. I remember I haven’t yet found Sam. The manager is happily chatting to me now, comfortable in the knowledge that if I’m crazy, it’s in one of the socially-acceptable sorts of ways. I rest my bike against a section of the window he hasn’t yet shuttered and pull out my phone. Sam has messaged to say he’s inside.
“Aha!” I said, as if this is a trump card. “My husband is already inside getting his vaccinations.”
The manager’s face changes.
“Your husband is inside?” He looks around suspiciously as if I’ve pulled some kind of trick on him, sneaking a Trojan horse into his pharmacy under his very nose.
“Ok, you can go in, but I’m not sure they’ll still be willing to give you what you need.”
I open the door, with my bike, the lights still flashing, and lean it up against a shelf at the front of the shop. “Can I leave this here?” I ask no one in particular, and walk to the back without waiting for an answer. As I approach the counter I find Sam walking towards me. “I’m done!” he announces, not quite as competitively as I would have, had it been me who had been seen to first.
After filling in a form and following a young Indian man to the back room, I too am sufficiently inoculated against Delhi’s microbes.
On the way out, we say goodbye to the old manager. He is jovially waiting for us to make our way out so he can finally finish the job of locking up for the night, but he doesn’t seem put out.
“You’re going to love Delhi!” he says. “When I finish with India, only then will I go somewhere else,” and I take him to mean on holidays because he has clearly made it to Clapton, “but I will never be finished with India!”
I haven’t even started with India yet and already I think I know what he means.