Friday, 29 June 2007

London town

I was up in The Smoke yesterday. There and back in one day, a thirteen hour round trip. I drove to the station. I waited for the train and after a short delay rolled along inexorably through ruralness and suburbia towards urbania. I headed down into the depths of the underground. My head rang with ratcheting decibels on the tube, whilst my body scorched in the heat and twanged internally to the palsied rhythm. My eyeballs and eardrums threatened to close down. Before meltdown I left the screeching metal intestinal transport system behind and gratefully walked across a park to get to my meeting.
Heading homeward I was talking on the phone, lost my concentration and took a wrong turning in the park, the Thames and Tower Bridge stretching before me. I asked a man which way to the underground and he shrugged. I asked another man, this time walking a dog (usually a good sign) and he told me the way. It was quite clear that he was heading in the same direction, but unlike the casual and relaxed familiarity of home, I forgot that Londoners have an innate suspicion and self-preservation thing going on (I had it too, but my Londoner status has obviously long rubbed off) and he was most uncomfortable when I fell in step alongside him. He quickened his pace, tugging at the dog's lead and marched swiftly ahead, either mildly in fear of my safety or his.
I am a bad traveller. I am probably an angry traveller. I resent the enforced claustrophobia, inactivity and almost inevitable migraine. I feel myself bristle, and that isn't good for bloodpressure or the stranger sitting opposite, with whom you have to do the tired leg tango, avoiding any touch each time you stretch and reposition yourself less uncomfortably.
And then, more tired than a tired thing, I hobble out of the car and open the farm gate. The dogs hurl themselves up the track into my arms and I drive them down to the house, sanity restored.
I take off my London clobber, and curl into fleece and leggings (yeah, right unfashionable slut) ready for a sofa snooze before bed. My mistake. A loud shout has me joining the fray to evict 102 Suffolk ewes from the wood - they should be in the adjoining fields but have opened the narrow pedestrian gate and filed through, munching on things they shouldn't be munching on. It only takes ten minutes to sort them out. The gates are secured with baler twine and I slope back to the comfort of the sofa.

3 comments:

Flowerpot said...

I can really empathise with this post! I also left London behind 17 years ago (was it really that long?) and find it very strange being back there. Glad you didn't get caught up in any bombings. Oh, the relief to be home!

mountainear said...

When we lived in the city and visited my parents or whoever in the countryside my return was always marked by a tremendous and very real physical ache for the land we had left behind. It always passed of course as we stepped back into our urban routine.

Now I feel an enormous sense of relief as we approach home, inhale deeply on the fresh air and listen to the silence. Bliss.

The thinker said...

Oh Mopsa - you brought back memories - I've not been on the tube for 30 years - but can still visualise exactly what you had to go through. You didn't mention the smells though .... and I'd forgotten how uptight people on trains in London are. We moved out to the cotswolds 1970s and so loved becoming part of a community where every public journey be it on train or bus involved a gossip or an inquisition as to who, where and why are you travelling? You could well have started out as strangers on a trip but depending on the length of journey had usually made a real connection with someone else's life for a short while.
I don't find Devon quite so cosily friendly in that way - maybe because so many city people have retired here they have brought their city ways with them?