Last night I stayed at the Soho Hotel, and this morning I walked the streets of Soho, memories flooding back on every corner, my childhood and adulthood spent roaming these streets. There used to be the cafe we used to come to for breakfast after a night clubbing; there was the shop I bought fabric from as a teenager; there where we used to have Dim Sum on Sundays as a child; there was my best friend Julian’s first office, up a narrow flight of rickety stairs.
It is completely familiar to me, and in so many ways I am completely at home. I sat in the offices of my wonderful UK publisher yesterday, Pan Macmillan, who just won Publisher of the Year. The meeting was filled with good things: good ideas, brilliant strategies, much laughter, and I left on a high at speaking the exact same language and being understood.
And yet, for as familiar as this town is, it isn’t home anymore. I lived in London for 30 years, and my friends used to joke I was like the mayor; I couldn’t go anywhere without running in to at least three people I knew.
And now, I don’t know anyone. I walk into restaurants filled with people that look like I ought to know them, and I know no-one. However well I know a place, it has always been the people who have made it home, and as much as I am loving reminiscing about my life here before I moved to America almost 15 years ago, being a stranger in a familiar land is making me realise that my hat is not laid here, and this will never be home again.
On Saturday, back in Connecticut, I will be doubtless be running up to Trader Joe’s and seeing three people I know, pausing at check-out to give Trudy a hug; I will grab lunch from the Organic market and chat with Charles as I leave; I will walk along the beach and see everyone in my neighbourhood.
And I will feel lucky, and grateful that although I left the place I grew up in, I have found another place to call home.
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