I am again a Londoner. A Hoxtonite to be precise; a denizen of the Kingsland Road, a drifter along Pitfield Street, a haunter of Shoreditch. It’s not surprising that London inspires so many tales of its alternate selves. The names of the city are a language ripe for linkages and construction, a thousand stories begging to be told. Queensbridge runs alongside Kingsland, within shouting but not touching distance. London Fields are full of flowers, pressed hard between the Blackstone Estate and the Overground line. I followed Goldsmiths Row into Haggerston Park the other day, and stepped from city to woodland as through a portal. My path led round the back of Hackney City Farm, the smell of manure reminiscent of the stables across the field from my old home in Devon; the sounds of traffic and the voices speaking a dozen languages in a hundred accents less so.
Around a corner and into the open, and a tiny boy, Turkish I think, shrieking with laughter as he practiced his Usain Bolt sprint between delighted parents. His mother’s tight jeans and hijab were closer by far to my leggings and trailing scarf than the jilbabs of the two Somali women, gossiping behind their pushchairs. Acres of playing fields in the heart of the city, full of a thousand shades of children. Worlds do not so much collide in London as fade into each other, between the shadow of one cloud and the next.
I’m so happy to be back.