Friday, March 15, 2013

London days.

I got back from London Wednesday night, four whole days and five nights at the end of a trip that included a few nights in Bath and four in Cornwall. I hadn’t been to London since the end of 1996, a terrible year for my family in which one uncle had been diagnosed with liver cancer, another uncle died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 50, and my own father was recovering from cancer.

Sixteen years went by. I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I found myself walking from Victoria Station to Sloane Square last Saturday night, almost-but-not-quite lost, eventually finding my way through the dimly lit cobbled streets and avenues to the Royal Court Theatre. I looked across Sloane Square; we had stayed near here the last time, and the Peter Jones at one corner of the square was as I remembered it.

The biting cold wind was as I remembered it, too. I’d walk out from the Pimlico station and pull my jacket closer against the cold, every day, walking the few blocks to our hotel. The path became familiar, past the curry shop, the pub, the stone hulk of St. Saviour’s, the long green park of St. George’s Square. Five nights is long enough to make a place feel like it belongs to you, even if it is only a fleeting moment in the passage of time.

My last day in London I spent on my own, invisible amongst the crowds. I wanted it this way. I got lost, turned around, found my way to a familiar place, kept moving. London, indeed England as a whole, was as warm and friendly as the weather was cold and windy. Shop assistants helped me count out my change; the VAT agent at the airport addressed me as “my love” (G. had told me this would happen). Even as I packed my suitcases to return home I was thinking, how soon can I return?

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