Some days I really miss London. I miss the aimless wanderings in my own world, amidst the heaving throng of city dwellers. I miss being anonymous.
Every now and then it’s nice to feel small, unremarkable, insignificant. London is just perfect for that, you can lose yourself for a short time; it’s quite addictive really. You can be a tiny minnow idling away in a big pond, just waiting to grow. But that’s one of the reasons I left in the end I guess. I grew too large for my little pool, but I was not quite big enough yet to hold my own in the ensuing ocean.
Don’t get me wrong, London is a wonderful place; but it can also be cruel, and punishing, and scary. When I left it was because I needed familiarity, I needed sincerity… I needed home.
But where is home? Besides Manchester, where I was born and bred, I have called many a place this name in my almost-30-years here on earth. Moving away to University, home was further North for a while; then a glorious summer spent working in Pennsylvania made the east coast of USA my home. Colchester claimed me for a time (actually, let’s forget that one…), and of course, there was London. Not once, but twice, London was my motherland, and I made some of my best friends and fondest memories ‘daan saath’. This city stole my heart (And my accent!), and evermore is lodged in my veins, coursing through my blood stream like oxygen.
So, despite the 6:30am train, it is with a tired, but eager smile I arrive into Euston this mid-week morning. It’s hectic with commuters making their way to offices and meetings, and well coiffured men in suits run frantically down escalators for trains. I watch with a sense of nostalgic amusement. I never used to run for trains, that was my rule, there’d most certainly be another one in 3 more minutes, and there really wasn’t anywhere THAT important to be that those 180 seconds would make all the difference. Now of course, it’s one an hour into Oxford Road from Stalybridge, and so you have no choice but to scurry.
I top up my oyster card and jump aboard the Northern Line. I relax in the utopia of undisturbed commuting that only comes with being below ground and sans phone signal. I watch the quiet hum of fellow humans breathing in and out life. I spy stockbrokers sat clutching paper cups, heads bowed low in deep, contemplative prayer to the gods of caffeine. I keep myself busy guessing trades, hobbies, religions, and moods. I make up back stories for my fellow carriage-dwellers, all of whom are blissfully unaware of the heroic tales they are currently acting out in my imagination.
I tube-hop at TCR to the Central Line, sauntering along with purpose, I have no need to check the map, as the colourful image is forever emblazoned on the underside of my eyelids. Like a homing pigeon, I know exactly where to go.
I stroll through the cylindrical tunnels, a channel directing it’s flow of bodies through an underground culvert of ceramic and chrome. I ascend shiny metal escalators to what is waiting above, and am re-born out onto bright, airy pavements. I am momentarily blinded by the sunlight refracting off the tall glass buildings, and straight ahead and to my right is St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s Baroque Basilica cream dome stands proudly out amongst it’s more modern surroundings, serving as a reminder of the rich history of our nation’s capital.
I have a meeting with a client this morning, but my feet move of their own accord, dragged by invisible forces to be closer to this mother of glorification. I simply have to take a photograph, and so I reach for my phone and snap happily away. I check my pictures, and the sky is a perfect azure blue on my screen, and simply endless. Even the light shines differently down here, and the breeze feels fuller as it wafts my hair in lazy whips around me.
I can’t help but think of Adele’s Hometown Glory, singing about the what she loves in the city, and the thickness of the air. Two worlds colliding. I feel exactly what she means. I am stood perfectly still, as fellow workers pass obliviously around me. They don’t give me a second glance, and that’s just the way I like it. Savouring one moment more, I turn on my heel and head into a café with tall ceilings, and a delicate smell of coffee which entices my senses.
My meeting goes well and I’m certain my enthusiasm and smiles this morning are all down to being back in the welcoming arms of my former city-paramour. Meeting over, and there’s no time to spare as I have a return train to catch. I ride the tube back to the station, hungrily devouring with my eyes, posters for exhibitions and shows that I will not see. Not today at least.
I wish I could stay longer. Go to a museum, walk in the parks, drink coffee, write. I adore mid-week London, I really do. But alas, I traipse back to Euston, my whistle-stop sojourn down memory-lane over for now.
I find my train seat and settle in. As the great metal carcass hurtles me speedily back, I think maybe it’s just me, but I could almost swear the sky is getting darker the further north we go, falling in on itself, the clouds closing ranks in an angry slate protest. I arrive in Manchester, and everything appears to be awash with a dull sheen. It’s as if my eyes have filters, and everything is fifty shades of dismal grey.
As my shoes fill up with water on the walk home for the second night in a row, and the wind blows relentlessly, angrily biting at my face, I sigh. It was nice to have a brief few hours of sunshine and city-watching back in London to roll me nicely into the weekend. I quicken my pace, nearly at my flat, and I think maybe, just maybe it’s possible to have more than one true home, for the many people and places you might hold dearly in your heart.