Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On not going home


 I came back to London in a daze. It was six o’clock, still dark out, but the airport was packed with people. Going home. Leaving home. 

 In Vienna, we went to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and looked at the Old Masters, the Bruegel room, the Greek and Roman treasures. We went to the Jewish Museum and saw an exhibition about Richard Wagner (whom I dislike). We went to the cinema and saw Inside Llewyn Davies (good, especially the cat), The Hobbit (bad), and Computer Chess (undecided, but probably good). We ate out. We ate in. Wandered around. 
We spent New Year’s in an old farmhouse, eating raclette. I cuddled the cat. Peter cuddled the cat. We played board games. I stopped thinking about London, about my job, about being an adult. I slept for hours and hours. My only regret is not eating more bread. 

 Back in London, life continues much the same. It has taken months for me to settle into a routine, and to stop comparing life in London with life in Vienna, or Durham, or what life might be like in Edinburgh, Oslo or Bologna. I get up early, I go to bed early. My windows face east, and as I shuffle through my morning habits of Radio 3, cups of tea, wet hair and struggling with the daily absence of carrot bread, the sun rises slowly over the park. 
I leave the house at eight. I cycle to Walthamstow Central which is already busy with commuters, but not as busy as it will be ten minutes later. Unless I’m unlucky (or late), I get a seat on the tube. For the next forty or so minutes I read. My headphones block out most sound apart from the rumbling of the train and the apologies of the driver for the invariable delays. What I read: novels; books on history, occasionally on religion and philosophy; the LRB; the TLS; the Profil. Right now: Suetonius' history of the Twelve Caesars, which I love. What I listen to: Schubert; Elliott Smith; Sufjan Stevens; quiet stuff that will keep me calm when stuck in a tunnel. 
And then I’m in Knightsbridge. Eight, nine, twelve hours later I repeat my journey. I crawl into bed and read some more. I haven’t figured my evenings out yet – more often than not I miss my brothers, their easy familiarity and their pasta dishes. 

On weekends, I leave town. 

 Homesickness is odd. You can feel fine for days, weeks, and then all of a sudden it hits you and you will find yourself walking the aisles of a Spar supermarket, simply because the branding is familiar. 

 * Title from this talk at the British Museum. Ironically, I won't be able to go because I'll be in Vienna.


  1. that talk at the british museum sounds very interesting!
    what a long commute you have! :( listening to music to calm yourself sounds like a good idea though! i usually listen to loud music on the way to work because i'm always afraid i'll fall asleep on the bus. but then sometimes i get super pumped up and fills me with even more dread about spending my day behind a desk.
    and homesickness is the worst! we speak german a lot at work and i'm not sure if that helps or makes things more difficult.
    (and sorry if this posts twice, my computer is acting up. and sorry for the world's longest, rambling-est comment.)

  2. I know that feel of homesickness brother, it makes us feel depressed, disoriented, But nonetheless it makes us a survivor, makes us stronger.
    Loved your write up. Just passing by...