Over the years, I’ve written quite a few posts rhapsodising about my time in London. How I had a great fourteen years there, how I left in 1997, and how I’ve never ever been back since. Posts like this one here or this one over here.
The most recent of these posts, just a few weeks ago, sparked a question which has been repeated to me quite a few times. In a word, the question was ‘Why?’ If I loved it so much, why have I never gone back to London in all this time?
It’s a good question. Particularly when I tell you that my wife has been over and back to London every year since we left. A good question and I should try to answer it but, I have to confess, as I set out to type this post, I don’t really know what that answer will be.
One thing is for sure, when I drove up the M1 in February ’97, with my car jammed full of stuff, I never dreamed that I wouldn’t be seeing London again in the next fifteen years. As it turned out, it was a somewhat unseemly departure from UK shores as my engine threw its big end somewhere up around Colwyn Bay and I had to enlist the AA to tow me to the ferry at Holyhead and then off again on the other side. Not at all what I had expected. Anyway, I made it back to Ireland and, as I’ve said, I’ve never ever gone back.
Okay, let’s think. Here’s a few possible reasons.
I don’t tend to do things for myself. I mean, I don’t tend to treat myself. Going to London would involve organising a treat for myself and I’m slow to do that kind of thing. It’s something that has grown in my mentality over the years and it’s a trend I find quite hard to buck. Someone, in recent, years, actually paid for a ticket for me to go to London (if you’re reading, you know who you are and thanks again for the lovely thought) but there was still too much ‘self-treating’ involved so it all fell by the wayside.
So that’s one possible theory, or maybe more likely a contributing factor.
Here’s another one.
I get very set in my ways. I get wrapped up in what I have to get done and how I’m going to do it. I never really stop and say, “I know, I’ll do something different in three week’s time and I will plan it now.” I just go on and on and on. That’s why I particularly love Christmas, I think. It’s an allowable ‘stop’. Everybody else stops so I can stop too. It’s hard for me to just say, “I’m going to do London next month.” It just doesn’t come natural to me.
So that’s two reason, right there.
But, having thought about it quite a bit now, here’s what I think is the actual crux of the matter. Going back… it would be like… what? What would if be like, Ken? Okay, it would be like this. Imagine you had a job, imagine you worked in an office for fourteen years and you lived and breathed that office and the people in it became like your family and your friends all rolled into one. The highs, the lows; they were all yours. Every twitch of that office was like it belonged to you. Now, imagine you left that office and, fifteen years later you decided to call back to see everybody. How would that be? People would have changed. It would no longer be your place. You would sit and have a coffee and the overriding impression, behind the politeness of the few people who still faintly remembered you, would be that you are just holding up the show, that you no longer belong here and why on earth did you even come back?
It’s like that, I think. The Big City lives on for me, right here in my head. If I ever go back to London, I fear I may finally lose it.
I realise that I don’t want go back as a tourist or any kind of a casual visitor. I need to go back for a reason, a really good reason. But the years are slipping away now and that good reason is not materialising. I may need to start thinking things out in a different way.
Luckily some things are changing.
There is now a growing imperative in me to go back to London. This imperative tells me to go only for a few days and only as the dreaded ‘casual visitor’ and it is beginning to weigh ever heavier on me. The scales are being re-balanced away from the ‘stay away’ side and noticeably towards ‘go, you fool, while you still can’ side.
This new imperative relates mainly to some of my online friends.
There are some people who I only know through my computer and who I would just like to meet, if only just once, in person. I don’t want anything serious or earth-shattering from them, I just want to see them for real, shake their hands, and perhaps chat for a little while. It sounds like nothing terribly important but it actually is. I met one of my online friends for a few hours a few years ago and those were a very fine few hours indeed.
So don’t give up on me yet, London, and don’t send me any offers or vouchers or encouragement to help me on my way. I’ll get there soon enough now, I think, and in my own time.
I’ll get back there.
And it’ll be okay…