There’s No Place Like Home
Back in Blighty. The rainy isle that feels second-skin familiar and yet so foreign. Every visit back brings on another bout of self-reflection. The longer I’m away from the place where I grew up, the more I feel like a tourist the moment I return – on the tube among the other visitors constantly checking the tube map to make sure I haven’t missed my stop, and on the bustling streets of London. Post-Brexit and plastic five pound notes. Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding. Delayed trains on a bank holiday, bus replacement service on its way. Stand by.
A hot cuppa wraps around me with both arms in a warm embrace of familiarity – I”ll take milk and sugar, please. Ooh they have a full English, don’t mind if I do. Pitter-patter raindrops and numb fingers in late March clutching onto umbrella handles in the face of the wind. Mini eggs and scones and clotted cream. Jam first or cream first? The familiarity of voices in the air that sound like yours, something you haven’t heard for a while. Daffodils are coming out and everything looks so green and lush. A common understanding going up on the escalators on the tube – stand to the right. Dad and I glance at each other watching a businessman struggle with the concept and unspoken rule. The National Gallery – more pigeons than tourists in Trafalgar Square, flocking around the fountain. Sunday roast with all the trimmings. New memories and old fuse together.
3.26.18 You make your way hastily to Earl’s Court from the Airbnb, it has started to drizzle and you fumble with your umbrella trying not to bump passers by on your way. You buy the wrong travel card, have you forgotten how this system works? Time to get a refund, buy a new ticket, rush down to the platform and squeeze through the rapidly closing doors – mind the gap between the train and the platform edge. “This train terminates here”. Shit, I got on the wrong bloody train. Back up to Earl’s Court. Finally, seated at a wine bar just across from the Thames- time to catch up with Charlie. You wish you had more time to hang out. You know how to navigate this place but… the food doesn’t sit right like it used to, your stomach churns and your body aches from the shock of change.
You eat at a restaurant called ‘Same Same But Different’. Everything is same, same, but different. Nothing and everything has changed – you have two homes now.