London has been good to me since I first lived here at the age of nine, and since returning at the age of 11 to stay, probably now for ever in one form or another. I totted up how many addresses I have lived at here, and it comes to thirteen roads, not counting hotels/B&B and not counting the second and third homes I lived in in the same road in NW6, back in 1963 or thereabouts. It’s complicated. Expressed in terms of railway stations, that’s eight, which doesn’t sound too bad. In school terms, that’s just three, and in terms of workplaces it’s nine of which three no longer exist, having being redeveloped, with a couple more converted to something else. One school is almost exactly the same, one has become an academy and one has changed religion but remains recognisable inside and out. I get some sense of continuity from all this, which makes up for not being a native of the town.
London has done me no harm. I’ve not been hurt, though I have been scared several times – bombs within earshot, narrow squeaks on road and rail, a burglary, dodgy geezers being threatening now and again, with one or two acts of mild violence. A speck of London dust got in my eye once and I had to go to A&E. That’s just the once in all that time. So I have nothing to complain about, and a great deal of memory and human experience invested in the bricks and paving slabs, green swards and streams, woodlands and tunnels, museums and pubs. I cannot go anywhere much in London without it stirring one recollection or another, dim or vivid, of people I have known or events or situations. London is a friend then, rather more than a casual acquaintance.
But I’m becoming neglectful and lazy, and failing to maintain a relationship that has gone on nearly 60 years, let alone taking it to new levels of intimacy as one should strive to do – according to some anyway. I can feel my horizons closing in a bit, so that a trip ‘up London’ is more of an adventure than it was, more eye-opening, but slightly more alien It’s harder to keep up. I am not tired of Lodnod, nor of life. Yes, I should get out more!