It seemed important to reclaim London. London – the city antithesis to my country life. London had become to me a place of uncertainty. Nestled just an hour or so from here, but so full of ‘other’ that visiting was somewhat traumatic. London had featured in my professional life; I associate it with early morning trains and high-heeled walks to a monolithic office. Heart palpitating presentations to an auditorium full of executives; progressing my ‘career’, when I had a career. Now, London is a whole different thing. London is stylish, messy-haired millennials with anxiety, and weary-looking men, who commute back to their lives. Or not.
In search of yet more education (dare I say, direction?) I signed up for a life writing course at Faber, and so last week, London took on a fresh guise. I wouldn’t say I strolled through Bloomsbury to the regency building that would house my latest educational jaunt, I virtually ran. I was late, clutching my phone for directions on ‘Citymapper’. Like a tourist. The room was full of writing peers, I sidled in and off we went again. Throw-back to the first day of my Masters a few years ago. I found myself thinking that writing is something that I should just do, rather than incessantly learn about. Yet something about the sitting with others, when you have a self-imposed profession of solitude and thought, is heartening. You learn, but then you also absorb. You challenge and reframe. Heaven knows that’s what my life is all about right now. Take only what you need from it.
After, with the glimpse of new friends and confidantes on the horizon, I found a new route through the city, the faceless, nameless, forget-it-all bustle of workers and commerce and money-making. So far away from the dog walks and rural seasons of Sussex. A million people’s lives; the good and the bad. Countless indulgences. All the promise, but none of the substance. So no wonder. After participating in some self-mutilation with my daughter, who met me, at Maria Tash in Liberty’s, we made our way back home, the train pulling up in the dusky light of another weekday. We have a new puppy called Doris, who’d been dog-sat by my sister in law. Rushing to collect her, I was reminded of those heady days of being a working mother, when each day was bookended by the pick up and drop off from nursery. That slightly grubby feeling of collecting your offspring from someone, and bundling them in the car to go home, relieved you made it through. Only to do it again the next day.
Funny how it goes. Funny how you think you know how things will turn out, but then they don’t, and there’s a whole different route to explore. London, you’re not so scary after all.