Dear London,

I’m sitting at my desk in a house that has been my base, nearly my home, barely my home for three and half years. Greenwich, technically Charlton, depending on who I’m talking to if I want to down play or up play where I live in you. Raised eyebrows in the holiday destination delight, or appreciative nod in living at the rougher end of somewhere. I’m in the middle. There is always categories and associations to your boundaries, to your little villages that make up the whole of you.

Bags are packed, boxes filled, memories I’d kept hidden under four foot of paper return to haunt me as I continue to drag my past along with me. Refuse to let it go, fill my new start with old things, documents of regrets and laments for things gone. Just in case their useful.The only things that remain in place are the pictures on my wall.

Sweep up the dust of people’s skin cells in my bedroom. Those that started there with me, that helped me build that bed, those that used this as a halfway house between here and the other side of you somewhere. Wonder if the person that I moved away from in west london, whose bed this is, who never saw this house in the South East, retained a fingernail, or eye lash, or skin cell that found it’s way here, one last impediment hanging in my then, new start. People that passed briefly through, a snapshot of me in artfully piled up books my bedside, designed to tell a story. Friends that passed out on my sheets, biting their tongue on the piles of clothes, and shoes, and unfinished glasses of water, that I refused to apologise for. The person that I have shared that broken bed with for a year and bit, on and off, every now and then, who made no judgement on my teenage mess. The person who I am half taking with me every now and then, off and on, as a representative of you. A talisman so I won’t forget you. Someone I can’t quite leave behind, like you.

Even after I’ve left, I’m back two days later, to finish up, to clear up, and I’ll back in you more often than this goodbye implies. I won’t own you then, but maybe I’ll be excited by you once more, because I’ll be that rare thing, a tourist that used to be a local. Or a passing migrant.

I’ve said goodbye to work, a place I’d been a part of, a famous building in your skyline, for seven years, on and off. Knowing that I’ll be able to tell those days as stories, knowing I won’t return, missing the mundanity of it, the security of it, my little rifts of anger in the travel to it.

And I’m starting to feel emotional to places I may not see again;

Charlton Retail Park, That Big Asda, The Matalan that I so regularly frequented, narrowly avoiding heated exchanges in long stretching queues. Maze Hill swimming pool, with it’s Edwardian freeze at one end of a pool that stops just short of 25 metres. The small shop by Westcombe Park with the man with nice arms, who once said I had a nice smile. The weird shop around the corner where they try to upsell everything,  where they keep brown bread out the back and you have to ask for it, like it’s some forbidden ration. The shop where I once saw a man ask if they sold pasties, and them try and sell him a pack of pitta bread instead. Deptford Market, where the deadmen’s objects are laid out uncleaned, for prices made up on the spot. Wavelengths leisure pool, and it’s constantly broken ice cold showers. Charlton lido, shut down, refurbished in time for the Olympics.That path across the railway that I never did take. The Angerstein Pub, newly carpeted, often open, late at night. The Old Oak pub, and it’s too cheap roasts that still turn out to be the best that I’ve found in London. The fish and chip shop at Royal Standard where the man was once so nice to me it made me cry. The cafe where the bacon is poor but the staff are lovely. The bridge over the dual carriage way.

All the tourist sites, and the central points that make up the heart of you, I’ll see again, but these places, this points of personal placement, it’s unlikely I’ll make a trip back just to see them. The sense of place and markers that I built up for myself, will carry on and change, and I’ll never know their fate. So I’ll carry on and change and find a new cafe, and a new pool, and a strange shop, and build, once again, parameters and marking points in which to make my life.

But it won’t be you. It won’t be here. It’s won’t be dissimilar. But it won’t be you.


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