I sink into a seat on the Gatwick Express, not happy to be back. It is a little before 10am, and my body clock, which finally adjusted to Texas Time, thinks it is 4am. I couldn’t sleep on the plane and am due in at work in a few hours. Everything seems yuck. I phone Lanette and speaking to her makes me feel a little better, and also a little worse at the same time.
When I was away, there were a couple of occasions where the two of us were snuggled up watching TV and we’d see something which would prompt Lanette to turn to me and shake her head, apologising for how weird her country (or, in the case of more localised commercials, her state) must seem. Similarly, before I went away there were a few times where I’d be watching TV in the company of fresh-off-the-boat Housemate Nicole and something on the screen would cause her to look at me with a bewildered "what?!!". In the case of T4’s June Sarpong’s presenting style, I have been able to offer no more than the most Gallic of shrugs.
As the train begins to head into London I try and adopt the perspective of someone new to the country and imagine what their first impressions must be of this alien landscape. I peer into the mid-morning gloom and decide that we must have some of the most littered railway embankments going. I also decree that our graffiti artists really must try harder; their tags are so uniform and mundane. As the journey continues though, I see some more surreal sights which I enjoy imagining befuddling a newly arrived visitor. The first noticeable building I see bears a large sign, proclaiming it to be The Bank of Scotland. Confusing. We then pass the yard of a bus hire company, which has chosen to paint all of its almost seemingly derelict double deckers a purple colour. A series of further yards zip past, each with slightly more bizarre contents than that which preceded it. There is a collection of a few hundred of those metal benches you only get at railway stations or more modern children’s play parks, stacked some 15-feet high. Next is a large yard empty but for a couple of dozen decaying old telephone boxes, each standing tardis-like in the mist. Followed by a yard the size of a tennis court containing nothing but stacked traffic cones. What, I wonder, would an outsider, new to this part of the world, make of it all?
I spill my expensive and bland hot chocolate over my newly washed jeans. What, I wonder as I prepare to disembark to the tube strike which greets my return home, would an outsider, new to this part of the world, make of me and my browned and steaming crotch?
5 weeks ago