Monday, July 21, 2008

Cold Britannia

Since moving to New York, I always make sure that I stop over in London for a few days twice a year, usually on my way back to France to see my family. Having lived there for 12 years, a lot of my "extended" family and very dear friends are there. This time, the trip was little more complicated - I was in London for 5 days, then in Paris for 2 before finally joining my family in the South of France for a week.

Moving to another country is always challenging from a friendship perspective and I must admit that I fear fewer and fewer people will still want to see me as years go by ... although it hasn't been the case so far, thankfully. When I see my London friends again, whether I am in touch with them on a weekly (or sometimes daily) basis via email, or just once in a while, it always feel like we only saw each other yesterday, despite our lives changing and evolving all the time.

I therefore always look forward to going back to London ... although this time I had the distinct impression that London didn't want me there, considering the number of things that went wrong during my short stay.

It all started with the constant rain, grey skies and surprisingly cold temperatures. I had only packed summer dresses (a case of misguided optimism) and was eventually forced to buy a pair of trousers and borrow a friend's coat, after a couple of initial days of shivering, constant cursing and getting soaked to the bones (usually while lugging my heavy suitcase in the streets!).

Things got worse as I moved into my hotel after staying with various friends for a few days. I was staying in a guest house in Belgravia and was given a dark and damp basement bedroom with a tiny bathroom - so small that I felt I was showering in a coffin (an experience I would not recommend!). And with only one towel (not much larger than a hand towel) for the entire 3 day stay, and a TV that wouldn't have looked out of place in a museum, I was close to tears.

Even a trip to Brighton turned into a much less straight forward affair than it should have been. I was making my way down to have dinner with Charlie, one of my oldest friends, but was delayed by over an hour because of violent storms. I finally made it and had a wonderful evening, at the issue of which I thought I had overcome my streak of bad luck ... until I took the train back to London the next morning and got fined $40 for buying the wrong ticket - something that has never, ever happened to me in the numerous times I have made that journey!

As the final touch to a fairly disastrous trip, I realised after leaving London that the Ipod Touch I had bought for a friend of my brother's had been stolen from my luggage, leaving me $400 lighter ...

But I didn't let London (quite literally) dampen my enthusiasm and I had a wonderful time catching up with as many friends as time allowed. It did bring mixed feelings to the surface however: a sense of belonging (enjoying seeing old faces and old places) but of detachment as well (being very aware that it is not where my life is right now).

I feel at home everywhere, yet nowhere in particular at the same time. They say home is where the heart is ... right now I feel that my heart is scattered across France, London and New York. I hope that one day it will settle somewhere finally.

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