Home Sweet Home

As you may know if you’ve read my previous blog post, I was luckily enough to go down to my nation’s capital earlier this month for the National Achievers’ Congress 2012, held at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands.  I arrived at Lincoln train station half an hour early, which is fairly unheard of for someone like me, who has missed more trains than I care to remember.  As I boarded the train to Newark North Gate and we set off on our journey out of Lincoln, we rode straight through the middle of my university’s campus, under the bridge you have to cross to get from one side to the other, and past the level crossing where if you’re paying attention, you can hear the bells on the level crossing at the High Street and can make a run for it and get through before the barriers clamp down on Wigford Way.  I’m sure if I added up the number of minutes lost by Lincoln students having to wait for up to three trains at a time, while walking between one building and the next, well, we’d have a hell of a lot more beer drinking time.

Anyway, what struck me about the train ride, was that as we got out of the city, I didn’t recognise the journey.  You see, back in 1997-8, I spent a year living in London, and so I regularly made the journey from Kings Cross to Lincoln via Newark North Gate, and I felt like I knew it like the back of my hand.  I’ve been to London maybe once a year or less since then, more recently on the way to an airport, previously for day trips with my mum to see a show and do some shopping.  Perhaps it felt strange to me, because nowadays when I’m on the train I’m usually heading out of Lincoln in a different direction, north-westerly towards Sheffield, to visit my mum.

But what did strike me, was that when I arrived at Kings Cross, it felt like coming home.  It’s been 14 years since I last lived in London, but arriving on that sunny Thursday evening, it felt like I had never been away.

Despite Lincoln being my home town for 32 and a half of my 34 years, I have never felt like I belonged.  My parents are both Southerners, so usually I put that down as being the reason why I’ve never quite gelled with the place.  So what is it about London that gives me that feeling of homeliness?

I guess maybe because I owe the city so much.  In the year I lived there, I went from being a quiet, shy 19-year-old, to a slightly more worldly, more independent young woman.  I lived in Russell Square, a mere 15 minute walk from Oxford Street, and I loved exploring London on my days off from work (as a hotel receptionist).  As well as making friends from different countries whom I could go out with, I also felt happy doing things myself, such things as I would never have contemplated living in Lincoln: I went to the cinema alone, I went swimming at a university pool nonetheless, on my own and I would wander the streets of London, coming across random bookshops and just generally enjoying my own company.

For the last three months, I lived in Bethnal Green but worked in the City, and I would spend my lunchtimes at the Barbican Centre library.  On Saturdays I would wander through The City on the way to somewhere else, never-failing to be surprised at how hauntingly ghost-like the area was on a weekend, when all the hard-working stock brokers and bankers were at home with their families or playing golf with their friends.

London really was the start of the me I am today, which I believe is why I feel such affinity to it.  I’m now 34, and I hear others my age say they wouldn’t want to bring kids up there, but I would love for my kids to be brought up in a big city.  Full of opportunities, people, culture; the gateway to the big wide world.

And that is the reason why I’m heading back to London again tomorrow.  I’m going to a meeting about postgraduate study in the US.  It’s strange that I can’t remember the last time I went to London, possibly last year on my way back from Heathrow, but now I find myself visiting twice in one month.  It’s a sign of things to come, I believe.  I’m almost done here in Lincoln, and I can feel the big wide world grabbing hold of me, pulling me away, determined to free me from this place that has held me for so long.  I’m ready to let go now, and I’m walking towards the embrace of my future.



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