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Farewell London: A New Story Awaits

By J. A. Alcaide
By J. A. Alcaide

The clock has just struck noon and I can hear the spin cycle of the washing machine downstairs. Its rhythm and the summer heat are lulling me into a state of relaxation. It’s humid here in my parents’ living room. Their house pulses with heat even when the radiators are off: a blessing in winter, stifling in the summer months. I’ve not blogged for a few weeks as the whirlwind of moving preparations has taken hold. The logistical arrangements of car selling, renting the house, closing down utilities, packing and goodbyes reached a peak a week ago when the movers came in. It seemed to me that they were like anteaters: sucking up the remnants of our London lives with supreme efficiency.

Since then I’ve been with the children at my parents’ house. J is in Geneva already. We’ll be leaving for the airport in an hour. The cats, whose baskets have been liberally sprayed with pheromones recommended by the vet, will be travelling with us in the flight cabin. I feel like a cross between superwoman, a sad clown and the mad hatter: capable, emotional and increasingly unpredictable. It’s a relief to return to the blank page at long last, to draw calm from it. Already it feels that the strain is pouring from my fingers onto the page as I type. The blank page: a mirror, a sea of acceptance, a promise of renewal.

By Anirudh Koul
By Anirudh Koul

Tiredness is heightening my emotions at the moment. Geneva is just over an hour’s flight from our family and friends in the UK and we have no doubts about choosing this move. It will be a wonderful adventure for our family while the children are young. Still, however open we are to it, change is unsettling. It stretches us uncomfortably. Depending on the nature of the change, we are forced to adjust to new patterns, support networks, cultures and expectations. Was there ever an easy goodbye?

London will always be my home. I miss its vibrancy, architecture and spirit already. This city feels determined and resilient. It is both alien and a friend. I can walk the streets and disappear into its melting pot of cultures. The grey skies and murky river are home. The chimney stacks of the skylines near our house are as familiar to me as the lines on my palm. My story is etched in corners of this city, in its parks and art galleries, its restaurants and theatres, in the homes of our family and friends.

I will always return to you gladly, London, but for now, farewell. There is a new story waiting to be written in Geneva.

26 thoughts on “Farewell London: A New Story Awaits

  1. All the best in your new hone! I can feel for you as I myself moved from Switzerland to the USA only last year. Being surrounded by a new environment surely is a wonderful experience but it can also be frustrating at times. For me, the non-metric measurements do it every time ;-)

      1. Thank you! I feel like I’ve finally arrived (I know, took long enough… Though my husband who has more experience with moving to new environments tells me it usually takes 2 years to truly “arrive”…).
        I can certainly put together some tourist tips. How secret they are is still to be seen but I’ll do my very best ;-)

      2. Oh I’m glad you feel settled. I hope your husband is wrong though because our move is likely only for two years!

        That would be wonderful. Please, don’t make it any more than a few minutes work. Just a short list of places that would stop us being tourists ;)

  2. I never lived in London, but I spent a large portion of my life no more than half an hour from Kings Cross by train, so spent a fair amount of time there. One thing I always felt about London – I was glad to arrive and glad to leave. But having now moved up North, and with daytrips now both financially as well as logistically impractical, I miss it a lot. I go to other big cities and I find myself looking for the parts that remind me of London.

    What I always loved about London was that, if you were brave enough and prepared enough to throw yourself headfirst into it, then literally anything was possible. Any number of bizarre adventures could come your way. It isn’t a utopia of course, and I don’t want to over-romanticise; in many ways it is a vicious and cruel city, particularly for the have-nots. But it’s still special.

    1. Hey, you. Your comments are always so nuanced. We lived on the outskirts and in that sense I was never a city chick. London, like most major cities, can be a bit like the nightmare vision in the film Metropolis, but like you say, anything is possible there.

      I worked in community relations for the Greater London Authority for years and while it was part of my job to help celebrate the city and its communities, the inequality there is a huge problem. If you ride the Jubilee line life expectancy drops by over a decade.

      Despite its flaws to me it is both comforting in its familiarity and capable of surprising me. Very special. Night xx

  3. A beautifully poignant post. What an adventure begins, but yes, change can be so daunting. I can’t imagine leaving Birmingham for good. It for me is like your London. It can seem alien at times, and yet no where else could be home. Good luck in your new life. The great thing for us is we can still be in touch via this wonderful internet thingy! :) xx

  4. Another lovely piece of writing, Nabs. I hope that Geneva is beginning to feel like home for you all.
    In some ways, you and I are in a similar position, going from insider to outsider, although I don’t think you or I will lose our affinity with London – and of course, your exile is temporary! It certainly feels different to be in London as a visitor rather than as a resident; in some ways, it has heightened my awareness of my surroundings – it’s helped me to see London afresh, rather than just hastening from A to B, which is rather lovely.
    I’m looking forward to hearing all about your Swiss experience, and hope you have huge and happy adventures.

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