Sunday, 12 January 2014

I'm in London still...

In the usual nostalgia that brews when I'm approaching a big change, in this case moving back to Melbourne after 5.5 years away, I've been listening to this song that a very dear friend played to me after I got back from 12 months university-graduate-backpacking 20 years ago.

My two friends and I flew to London from Rome in July 1994, ready to activate our 2 year work visa. We'd been travelling for 5 months in Western and Mediterranean Europe. We'd wandered from a month on a Greek Island through Turkey and Israel, taken a taxi into Egypt where we'd ridden camels and a feluka. I'd been worth 500 camels one day, and depreciated to 50 a month later.

In some ways the idea of settling in one first-world place, unpacking our clothes, and going to work seemed appealing.

We rented a 2 bedroom ground floor apartment in Wood Green. The rubber hose on our bath taps burst after a few minutes, scalding a foot. Coffee was drunk from our tin travel mugs, and we had a stash of glasses we'd stolen from happy hours in bars. We had a backyard but we couldn't see through the metre-high weeds. I registered with a few temp agencies and quickly set out in my Topshop suits.

On Friday nights my friends would go to bars in Shepherd's Bush and catch up with friends we'd made on Ios and at the Oktoberfest, and I started to stay in for some quiet space. I'd buy a cheap Bulgarian red and a piece of cheese from Sainsbury's, sit in the yellow sitting room listening to music and writing letters. When it was late enough to call Melbourne, I'd go to the phone box down the street and ring my friends.

I lasted six weeks.

I suggested to my friends we hit the road again. They laughed and started packing their bags.

Twenty years later I'm surrounded by piles of books, sorting out what to donate and what to take. I've got some possessions on eBay, my relocation is booked and the seat on my long flight is reserved.

My parents were here for Christmas, and after visiting me every year they realised they might not be back here for a while, so we plotted a busy schedule for their fortnight: Christmas Eve at the Royal Albert Hall, dinner at Nopi, Barry Humphries' farewell tour, salt beef bagels in Brick Lane. I went on the tour of the Houses of Parliament. I'm going to go to the V&A museum, the Everyman cinema, and ride the cable car.

It's sad leaving friends, the writing scene I've become so much more involved in, access to Europe and foxes in the backyard. I have parents, brothers and sisters-in-law, 8 nephews and nieces, good friends, a beach house and the MCG waiting for me…so…Hello Possums!