My Other Hometown - ‘One could lose themselves in London’

"I love London town"


Covid exposed misery, misery had a moment and almost became ‘cool’. If you didn’t have a touch of depression or a full on breakdown during Covid you just didn’t get it - no one was happy unless they were unhappy. But now with Covid exiting stage left, is happiness the club everyone is dying to be part of - the ultimate FOMO. But what are we going to do about all those feelings baked into all that banana bread?

I am writing this as I sit in my London home, I don’t live in London, but I used to. Our London ‘home’ is in-between tenants so I have fallen on Damocles' sword and come here to ‘do some house stuff’ / hide from myself. The house is void of everything, somebody somewhere even turned off the fridge and I can’t, for the life of me, remember how to turn that frickin thing back on. But without milk for my tea and no hum of white noise I am finally completely alone. I can hear the sound of my fingers dancing around the soft-touch keypad. I’ve noticed how often I randomly like to clap, just a solitary clap followed by burying my head in my hands - is this some comfort move I developed in my busy childhood? Or is it some strategy my sympathetic nervous system has engineered to snap me out of maladaptive daydreaming and back to the task at hand? 

I look out at the swampy oak tree in our little suburban garden and wonder why years of tenants allowed the next door neighbours fig tree squatting rights in our patch of North London. There is activity somewhere, this is London afterall, but it's not in my house or on my quiet street. I wondered for a minute if my neighbours were in fact all dead, then I remembered I don’t know who they are or care to know. Ah, bless, London. 

In my self imposed short exile I am trying not to think about others, my family in Dublin will survive. I believe the human brain protects itself and when I started to forget chunks of conversations, stopped sleeping, and felt an urge to run - I knew my brain was trying to wrap itself up in a warm cozy jumper, shed the stress of intense situations and get as far away from me as it could. I’ve followed it to London where I walk and write. I throw on my shorts and lope for miles from the highest point in London down to the Embankment where I breathe. I bob and weave through the tourists and climb back up my lovely London to Hampstead Heath where other people’s dogs follow me. 

I keep my interactions to a minimum, buying water and supplies in an English accent I didn’t know I had. As masks are becoming a thing of the past in this capital city I have been stocking up on some lateral flow tests (just in case), when a pharmacist bid me farewell with a ‘Ta-ra, my lovely’ this brought a huge smile to my face. Only to disappear again when a strange man on the tube stared at me for 5 stops with his teacup dog on his lap - also staring at me. When I stood to disembark he offered me a warm Mars bar from his pocket. “Oh God, no thank you”.   

Back to my structured retreat, I write because it makes me happy, even as a child writing has always been my happy place. It doesn’t always start from a happy place and I’ve written some rubbish in my time, but it always ends well. I am consistently confident that it is good, not the quality, but the act of writing is ‘good’ for me. It helps me cope and deal and process and release - this is my therapy. 

Covid has ravaged us all, if you think Covid hasn’t touched your frame of mind you are probably suffering from a psychological disorder, I’m kidding, but you probably are. Now that we’ve all admitted Covid was weird (it was weird, right?). Are we nose diving straight into Covid’s arch enemy - denial. At some point in everyone’s day they are stretching out a smile so wide a dentist would wince, there seems to be a need to talk about something life-transforming like a good book, or a new restaurant, or walking (see above), or they tell you something terrible and find a positive twist - “I can’t see out of my left eye anymore, BUT my local undertaker now sells organic fruit and veg out of coffins, and gives out microloans. From crypto to eco, it's just so sustainable, it’s fantastic - who needs eyes!"

Should we fake it until we make it? Maybe. But, to steal the mot-du-jour let’s find a joy that is ‘sustainable’. We are all scrambling for happiness, and true happiness, the happily-ever-after kind, will come from the joy you can continue to invoke whether it’s a walk in the park, a declutter, a chat, a favourite food, a favourite person or even a warm Mars bar - from the small wins will come the big celebration. 

I bought some banana bread from my local baker in Highgate this morning. It smelled great, “What’s your secret ingredient?” I asked as I pondered sharing it with my liminaly dead neighbour when I got home. “Do you know what?” said the baker (Londoners love asking rhetorical questions), “It’s the same as it ever was, isn’t it?” I looked around to see who he was asking all these questions to, as he continued “People just appreciate it more now, don’t they?”

Yes, yes they do.