Thoughts on a return trip to London…
After weeks of wading around in the warm bath that is springtime in Los Angeles, returning to London felt like dive-bombing into an ice cold plunge pool. This was my first trip back to my home city since I emigrated to LA six months ago, and it came as a shock to the system. Getting off the plane to painfully cold Baltic winds and blizzard-like conditions (in April!) made my body squeal ‘WTF’, before promptly succumbing to its first bout of sickness in months. If I felt ill-equipped to cope with the bleak perpetuity of British winters when I lived in London, then I certainly don’t have the balls – or wardrobe – for them now.
Luckily, the physical downsides had some cerebral upsides. LA, as I’ve written before, is a wonderful place to fall into a dream-like focus; one that is extreme conducive to concentrating or bringing good ideas into fruition. But the lack of daily stimulus can make it tricky for new ones to form. Having reached a point of creative stagnation in the weeks before my trip, I welcomed the instant jolt of inspiration that London provides. After a few days of absorbing the city’s energy, my own ideas began to flow again. As always, the clarity came as a relief.
Equally satisfying was the quiet contentment that comes from spending time with people you love after a prolonged period of time apart – a bit like scratching an itch that has been encased deep inside a plaster cast. I was nervous that my physical distance would result in an emotional distance, but it turns out I needn’t have worried. When it comes to old friends, I was relieved to discover, months apart can melt away in a matter of minutes.
Less reassuring – and far more unexpected – was the sense of detachment that I felt while wandering the back roads of De Beauvoir and storming down Wardour Street. As a born and raised Londoner, the sights and sounds of the city are as familiar to me as the back of my hands. I certainly didn’t expect a paltry six-month absence to leave me feeling like an outsider. But as I sat in coffee shops, watching the city bustle along as it always has, I realised that London had got on just fine without me. Which is OK, because I’m doing just fine without London, too.