Marie officially moved to New York last week, in an apartment just a couple of blocks away from mine, and it is wonderful to have another friend in the neighbourhood. With most of my friends living downtown, I constantly hop on the subway or in a taxi to meet them - it is a well known fact that it's nearly impossible to make a "downtowner" travel uptown.
And the advantage of having one of my best friends close by became even more obvious yesterday.
I woke up with a raging hangover after a great night out with a group of friends at Pier I, an outdoor beach style bar on the bank of the Hudson river. Marie was feeling similarly awful for the very same reason as me, so when she called me in the morning suggesting that we meet for breakfast at Barneys Greengrass, it was an offer I could not refuse. There is nothing better than eggs, bagels, bottomless coffee and gossiping about the night before, to cure a hangover.
The rest of the day was devoted to helping Marie settle into her flat, which is in a brownstone on a wonderfully bright corner of 87th and Columbus. We stopped at the local pet shop and I helped her pick a goldfish - little Harry is now happily swimming in his tank. I had to google instructions on fish feeding and learnt some very valuable facts, guaranteed to make me the star of any dinner parties: who knew that the oldest goldfish lived 43 years, that they can develop gas problems or that they can be fed hard boiled egg yolk and lettuce!
Then came time for some hard work. We put on Madonna's new album and set about building the various pieces of flat pack furniture she had bought at Ikea a couple of nights before. I have painful memories of building all my furniture myself when I arrived here. Despite zealously reading the instructions, it always resulted in me having to rebuild everything twice as I never got it right the first time - cue tears of frustration, copious amount of swearing and regular refill of my glass of wine. Somehow, I was determined to do it all by myself, which was frankly very stupid ... and which is why I happily offered my help to Marie.
It seems that my skills have improved somewhat as this time, I only had to rebuild the chest of drawers at a relatively early stage of the process. We had no tools other than a screwdriver and decided to use Marie's blue snakeskin stilettos as hammers (yes, you read this right). I looked up at one point as I was banging on a screw, shoe in hand, to see Marie doing the same thing - causing an inevitable fit of laughter.
I love seeing her place take shape - it reminds me of my own settling-in experience, of creating a new home, mixing in objects from my past with new ones. Realising that it is really where I live now and that there is no going back. Feeling the excitement and fear that come with making a new start.
Moving to another country is the most rewarding and character forming experience I have been through (twice!) and I only hope it will be for Marie too.