It’s you. It’s always been you. That’s to say, it’s actually me where the problem is. The one that’s left. I would have liked to have stayed you know, I still come back all the time, I probably see more of you now that I did when I lived just down the road, but it’s not the same is it? And you just aren’t like other cities. You’re special. The City where memories form the bones of my life. From the first times that we would go up on the train from Beckenham Junction to Victoria with Katy and Lizzy, and we would run along to the nearest McDonalds and eat chicken nuggets and chips with still Fanta, before we would skip across squares, scattering pigeons, and find ourselves in Westminster Abbey doing brass rubbings, or in the Science Museum playing with water. We would always get the bus, we would sit on the top deck and look down at the head of the driver. We would press our faces against the glass as we went home back over the bridge, looking out at the graffiti along the tracks, the cranes building. I went to Docklands before Canary Wharf was there. We had a picnic once in Chelsea. We ran in the parks.
From those times, somewhere came my teenage years, when I discovered music, and shopping, and clubbing (indie style) and boys. And I would get the train to gigs, my internal map of London studded with (now defunct and closed down) venues, the station that was nearest; stops on the tube map punctuated by happy memories of gigs, and how I got there. And then there was every Saturday night, from the age of sixteen, when we’d get our permit to travel from Clock House, walk down the Strand to Surrey Street for dancing, and we’d get the N3 home, standing under Nelson’s Column singing Starman, or How High, while we waited. I would get lost sometimes. On the way somewhere or another. I would go to Carnaby Street and Camden and Kensington Markets. The clothes I bought fell apart, but the memories of my feet aching, of the feeling of the dirt on my skin, those are still there.
When I lived in Greenwich there was nothing better than looking back down from the statue of General Wolfe over the ever-changing landscape of the East, of the arch of Wembley as it replaced the old. Of the market, where I spent many weekends selling my jewellery back in the early days. Of the tourists. Of the pop stars or CBeebies presenters who I walked past on each trip. Of anniversaries, of jobs. Of my Dad taking me for a drink at the Tappit Hen.
I know I’ve left now, and I’m sorry. Here I am, on an island off the coast of Brittany writing this. But yesterday, more than anything I wanted to be home. You see London, it was always you. It will always be you.
(Written the day after the Westminster attack in March 2017)