It’s overwhelming, being Back.
We flew into a thick duvet of fog at Heathrow, leaving behind a foggy rainstorm in San Francisco; we didn’t know we were near the ground until the wheels suddenly bounced against the tarmac on the runway. Then the excitement of seeing the family, coupled with the terror of being in a small car laden with people, packages and presents on narrow north-west London streets; I had forgotten how much people here have little or no regard for their lives when crossing the road (and yet I grew up as one of these people). And then the getting up early and marching around Sainsburys marvelling at all the food I’ve missed since being in the US, and popping into WHSmiths and encountering a grumpy old woman (standing sour-facedly in the way of the sketchbooks I’d come 5000 miles to buy) who reminded me that the quick-snarling Brits are definitely not the friendly Americans. And after witnessing the final closure of an old bookshop where I used to work, going to Belgo for some it-didn’t-seem-this-expensive-before moules-frites, and on to Camden for many many drinks with many very excellent and very much-missed friends, followed by the obligatory journey across London in my sleep (courtesy of the N5; it’s almost like I do it on purpose). Yep, I’m Home, and while my head heart and soul feel like the musical build up in A Day In The Life, I’m not yearning for a return to the US just yet.
Christmas Day came and went, I didn’t eat or drink anywhere near as much as had been put in front of me. But there was trifle, there were mince pies, there was Pepsi Max; pete’s happy. The Eastenders Christmas death was Pauline Fowler, who was herself upstaged by the demise of legendary misogynistic groper James Brown (he doesn’t feel good now). Boxing Day began with me crawling out of bed at 5.30 am with a bad back, and enjoying the solace of the wee quiet hours, sketching the tree and listening to Pulp: the Peel Sessions. Later there was Doctor Who, Little Britain, ET, lots more food, lots more drink, lots more cheese and conversation. I’ve barely ventured out to see how much the UK has changed in my latest absence, whether the asbo generation and the massive influx of Poles that everybody keeps harping on about has really made much of a difference. Burnt Oak looks like the same old Burnt Oak to me, grey, run-down, a rusty tin-can being blown about in the breeze. I’ve not yet gone to see my old amour, the streets of central London, to be about the mad throngs I used to ignore like I’d ignore the drizzle. I’ve not yet had a curry, or a pint of London Pride. But I’ve been travelling with my mind through my life: I learnt to shave in this room, I wrote sad forgettable songs on this guitar in this very corner, I used to sit on this step and dream about living far far away.
Yeah, it’s nice being back in a past life. It’s where I’m from, what I know, and what’s more, it knows me – and there’s no bugger asking for my ID.