Thursday, 3 July 2008

Going Back

Tuesday 1st July

I have just got back today from 24 hours in London where I left behind 26 degrees and beautiful blue skies, the streets thronged with people sitting outside at cafes, bars and restaurants in the summer sunshine; I’m looking out of my windows now in the High Peak and it’s like something from a bad movie where there’s some bloke with a wind machine set to ‘gale force’ throwing buckets of water at the glass to recreate a winter storm. It might as well be December out there. N is in Nigeria (under armed guard apparently – for his safety rather than others’, I hasten to add, lest you believe he’s turned in desperation to drug running and gun crime) and I’m, frankly, feeling ‘a bit funny’. This could have something to do with being tired from walking miles with a pull along suitcase amongst crowds and hard pavements with arthritic aching feet in shoes that are meant to be comfortable (they’re Ugg for God’s sake); it could be something to do with being jaded after a shed full and a late night; or it could be the cold I seem to be fighting courtesy of one of the girls. Whatever, I feel distinctly in some bizarre other world, caught between two realities: my life here and my former life in London; my role as mother and wife versus just plain old ‘me’ (you know, that person who always gets forgotten that existed once as an independent individual with her own hopes and dreams); and me back in my home in the rain-soaked north while my husband, who I waved goodbye to in his black cab on a London street just 12 hours ago, is having dinner somewhere in Africa.

We went down for a huge bash courtesy of ‘The Firm’. 800 UK wide partners and their other halves (so an intimate little gathering of 1600 people then) celebrating 10 years of merger of the original firm with one of its rivals. ‘The Firm’ has not been known for its full appreciation of the long suffering ‘Other Halves’ – but last night they finally came good. Hotel bills and champagne in the room were picked up (N wished he’d known this was going to be the case – we’d have had another bottle), Jules Holland, Marc Almond (of Soft Cell fame) and Ruby Turner were the surprise entertainment at the dinner. There was something just a little sad in my view seeing all these 40 and 50 year olds still dancing like idiots (me included) to ‘Tainted Love’ and, worse, knowing all the words AND singing them at the tops of their voices as Marc (pint-sized and with gold fillings glinting in the lights) held the microphone out to the crowd (I’ve never felt older). But hey, they were having fun, so who am I to be a killjoy.

I’ll never forget the day, 10 years ago, that we learned of the merger: we’d just arrived in Milan and N went to the office to collect the keys to the apartment. I sat in the car outside and when he returned he told me that this merger had just been announced. Given that his remit in Milan was to win more telecoms business and the firm they were going to merge with already had most of those going, the raison d’etre for our move out to Italy was wiped out before we’d even begun. This was not an encouraging start. Still, we managed to cling on for two years out of the originally proposed three, but I’ve never quite forgiven them for sending us back to the UK earlier than planned. As with our enforced move to Manchester, we’ve always just been pawns in the political game. A tick in someone’s box. And I’m still not sure that creating such a global business monster was the right thing to do either, but that’s a whole other story.

I’m digressing again. All I’m trying to say is that I’ve come back up north today feeling like I’ve just been on the briefest of ‘city breaks’ to London. I realise I have now lived up here long enough for our capital city, my former home, to seem sufficiently unfamiliar that a visit is like a holiday rather than me simply returning to my old stomping ground. Indeed, before yesterday, I hadn’t been down for 18 months. Moreover, given the huge difference in the weather between north and south at the moment, it really did seem like another country. I remember returning to London from Italy and it didn’t feel as unfamiliar to me then as it does now coming down from my northern hills and my village life, despite there having been far less cafĂ© culture back then as there is now. These days you can barely walk the pavements without tripping over chairs and tables every two paces. Indeed, it almost felt like I was back in Milan today as I wound my way through the back streets from Mayfair to Euston. Yet stepping off the train at Macclesfield you enter a whole other world again. Being whisked through some 200 miles of English countryside in a Virgin Pendolino, from huge city to small provincial northern town in just two hours, is not really long enough to adjust. My mind was in a world I used to know, but one which has also subtly changed in my absence. And I guess I’ve subtly changed too. My vowels are slipping slowly but surely into something vaguely northern, with my mind gently being shaped to reflect the world in which I now live. It’s a far cry from London. It’s a far cry from Milan. It’s certainly a long way from Nigeria. N forgot his sunglasses and his sun cream. Looking out of the window again, I can say for sure that I won’t be needing them here any time soon….


Cait O'Connor said...

I think I know how you feel. When I go from Wales back to the South East (or the Otherworld as I call it) I feel strangely out of place and am relieved to get back here and see the hills again even though I do love to be with my relatives and even to see some of my old haunts again is poignant for me. Cities are good to visit but I could never live in one. I was born in London but have turned into a real country bumpkin/hermit.
The weather is another thing altogether. I don't mind the winters here but I expect some sun in the summer, I have a few days off work at the moment and was hoping for warm weather. Some hopes!
I hope you soon recover, it's probably just tiredness- a good night's sleep and you will surely feel different tomorrow.We Purplecoo folk are here for you, remember you are not alone up there on your hill. Sleep well.

Working mum said...

Ah, but it's Friday now and I can see the sun shining over the Pennines from my classroom window, so maybe it isn't all bad up here?

Exmoorjane said...

Wow, so much here that a comment won't really do it justice. A lot of backstory I'm just catching up on too. But, a few things:
UGG doesn't necessarily mean comfort. I swear my Achilles tendon injury came from wearing Uggs nonstop over the winter.
The London/not London disconnection. Yes, I feel it too, very much now, to the point where being in London is almost uncomfortable and I'm not sure it's whether I hate it or miss it!
I think I'd feel a bit 'funny' with my husband in Nigeria too....
Oh yes to whatever happened to that 'real' person who existed before one became a cipher and a bunch of cliches.
If it's any consolation it's not just grim up North but grim out West too. No summer here either which drags the soul down.
Like the sound of the Firm bash though. Again, know exactly what you mean about everyone shedding 25 years in a minute...never thought Marc Almond would survive! He once chatted Adrian up (one of his few claims to fame!).


Cait - so appreciate your thoughtful comments. I agree re weather - winter's fine (more snow tho please!), but to handle endless rain and grey, you do need summer, don't you? x

WM - will pop over to you in a min since I haven't been around in such a long time and we're neighbours, after all! Funny to think of you just down there beyond the hills - I looked down on the plain on my way to Macc today (ps: and we had beautiful sunshine for most of today, so instantly felt much better!)

J - lucky old Adrian...!!!! Hear, hear to all you say - and always good to know one is not alone! Interesting to hear your London feelings are similar to mine (and no suprise either :-) ). Oh yes, and just in case you don't think I'm COMPLETELY mad wearing Uggs in 26 degrees, they are special little summer pumps (but I think I bought them a size too small!!).

GoneBackSouth said...

That was a great post and I read every word right to the end. I can relate to so much of it, right down to Macclesfield station which I know so well.

family affairs said...

come and stay with me for a few days in London whenever you want - your sailing trip sounded amazing. Don't forget that you must be making a major adjustment from the opening-your eyes-travel to the back-to-reality life. I'm sure you were completely delighted to get back to the girls but obviously that wears off pretty quickly! Lots of love Lx

Milla said...

I find London another country too, when I visit (rarely) but still desperate not to appear parochial or out of my depth. Just grateful when the green fields reappear and I'm on my way home again. Wasted free snaffles (extra champers) most irksome. I saw ole Almond once, skulking in the shadows like a vampire. Can't believe he's still alive, really. Not a wholesome individual.

Working mum said...

Award for you over at my place. Enjoy!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

It's taken me two weeks to recover from our round Europe jaunt (must find time to write that up!)...I was in London for 10/15 years through Uni and working in the City. Used to miss it a lot but now don't miss it at all. Strangely what I do miss is the "old" City architecture...and I lived in Richmond 5 mins. away from the swimming pool. Now that's what I DO miss....(if I think about it!)

cheshire wife said...

Thank you for visiting my blog about two weeks ago, now. I apologise for the delay in reciprocating but I realised that I needed to have the time to do, your blog, justice and it has been a challenge to find the time.

I still miss Surrey with its' easy access to London but now that we have got the cottage nearly straight I consider Cheshire as home. I couldn't face moving again and I am certainly not doing up another house. And there are some advantages to being 250 miles from family.

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