It’s hard to write to you when I’m not with you.

Dear London, 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t written to you, about you in weeks.

Christmas bulldozed through your streets in afternoon alcohol breath. Cock eyed suits, merry high heels staggered in on trains, brief moments where commuter masks slip and collapse into giggles from 1pm mulled wine. Over this season into the New Year I’ve been anywhere but you. Anywhere but thinking about you. Anywhere but thinking about leaving you.

I’d not been home to you for 10 days or more, staying in the suburbs of the place in which I grew up. Or up to Brum, Or Leeds, cities that are not you. The majority of the time I spend on the outskirts of you, spitting distance from you, with it’s own tube stop and train station and list of celebrities. But it is not you. It’s Zone 6a. Or Zone 9 or whatever they call it in order to hold on to your coat tails.

It’s all old memories and old haunts, kick abouts, and that panic of entrapment. Looks of aggression from barley remembered faces, same old place. Boarded up shops, changes to high street. My old pub, sports pub, rudest bar maids in Watford, cut my teeth on sharp wit and youthful arrogance of being in control of consumption of alcohol on a saturday night. What was a pub, last left on the high street, with old John drinking from his own engraved tankard is now blacked out windows, neon writing, poles on the dance floor and named Rehab.

I get a headache just walking through the shopping centre. Flashbacks in Fred Perry’s and Paul Smith pastel, over gelled hair, over spruced smell.  Lynx? Boss? Brut? That certain swagger, the limp along gait of a man from a town that is outside of London, outside of you. It makes me feel old, it makes me feel tired. It makes me long for the anonymity of your wide streets. It makes me remember why I watched you from a short distance for so long, longed for you since 16, why I fell for you in the first place. Because you weren’t here. You weren’t the place I grew up in.

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