I went for a walk this morning with an old friend. She asked how LA was, were we settled and happy. I found myself feeling instantly defensive; not about LA, but about London and our identities here. I have discovered that after several weeks of being back, of all the best friends I have here – and I am blessed – it is my dear friend, London, I miss almost the most.
Yesterday I was able to drop my kids with their cousin and walk around, emersing myself in the London street vibe. It’s all Go Britain right now with the Olympics and it’s crazy fabulous. Big Ben has never been quite this impressive and the BBC coverage of the city makes it look as romantic and stunning as it truly is. Flags from every country parade the streets and the dedication London has made to the games has made tourists out of all of us. But for me, my affection runs deeper than crowd cheer; it’s in my soul, this town, and it is tireless in its ability to wake all life force inside of me and inspire.
Like any good friendship, there’s a give and take. If I can give London enough of my time, then in return I take from it creative stimulation, motivation, illumination. I reinvented myself in my twenties here and established myself as an adult in London. It means something more to me than merely a place I live; a country we may or may not return to full time. London will always be a significant other for me which is why I probably get a bit tetchy when people assume we are gone for good.
The past month we haven’t really stopped. Parkside to beachside to countryside and back again, the boys have managed to see most of their mates and have personal and group experiences that they look forward to when we talk about coming here. Playing football at Ham lands (the local field), taking the bus to the newsagent to buy candy, around the world ping pong with a tribe of local friends, fish and chips on the green, eating at Wagamama, cannonball at Sophie’s, Suffolk, Witterings, the list goes on. Every activity emotes a positive memory for them and helps shape their lives here. That’s why we need to come, regardless of it not always making sense, because these memories will build their English sensibilities – something I’m dedicated to.
It’s fitting that tonight, our last night, is the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. We are having a huge crew here from family to close friends, and it’s gonna get loud! Husband thinks I’m a bit mad to have people over the night before we go. When am I going to pack, he enquires. At the very last minute, I reply, as I want to be here in my mind as long as possible. The moment the bags come out, the transition starts and I’m not ready. I don’t enjoy being so far away from here, don’t often know where to place my emotions for those dear to me, for my home. For now, I’ll put on my trainers and head to Richmond Park for one more run with the deer, losing my head in the ferns and evergreens. It’s the only way I know how to leave…