Homesick for London

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Homesick for London

Every morning in Massachusetts, I make a pot of tea. Black and white china decorated with the names of English foods (“Fresh Milk & Jersey Cream” says my milk jug), tea cosy covered in a flowery print, tray I bought at John Lewis. And strong Assam to drink. Some days, I make myself a slice of crisp toast spread with marmite.

I left London 15 years ago with two preschool children, to find a better life in a small town, in the country where I was born. But back in England, that foreign land, I spent a week walking down familiar streets, seeing old friends (some from nearly 30 years ago – I was a teenager when I first went to England), meeting new ones, and talking. Talking about music and literature and technology, politics, gossip. I had a week breathing the cool, slightly sooty air of London, watching a sky that is much brighter than when I lived there because of global warming.

A woman I met when I came to Great Barrington – an erratic escapee from New York like so many here and, like so many, heavily medicated – said one day that she thought I should move to a university town, somewhere I would find like-minded people. I was grateful for the thought, because she was the first person who had actually seen me, who I was, not just assigned me to a category – poor do-gooder single mother or rich hippy single mother, or whatever it might be. But in the years since, I’ve found that there is no category that fits. Or, rather, I just don’t fit in.

I had good reasons for leaving London. My partner had moved out, leaving me with two children, a small flat, and huge monthly payments. British Rail plans had blighted our neighborhood so I couldn’t sell the flat, either. I was tired of the dog poop on the pavement, tired of the small frights about mugging nad burglary, and I wanted to raise my kids where they could run in the grass and climb trees. I wanted them to have a place they could call home.

Eventually, we landed in a small New England town, Great Barrington. It is beautiful, surrounded by low wooded hills and set in a river valley that winds gently from Vermont down to Connecticut. Great Barrington seems to most people a perfect escape from the city, an ideal place to raise children. And we have a perfect life, with a Victorian house on the Hill, and a small business in a building on Main Street.

But my search for community has failed. Much as I love this place, I haven’t put down roots. I haven’t found the kindred spirits that would make this place come alive as a home. I look back to the decision to leave London and wonder how, after all these years, life could take me full circle: to wondering if I might – now, with an American husband – move back to the place I fled.

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8 Comments

  1. julie Bell 19 June, 2008 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Just wanted to know if there was anybody out there that felt the same way as i do. I read your piece and found it interesting . I waas born and raised in London. would love to hear from somebody as homesick as I am.

  2. Ragnar 21 August, 2008 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    I sure am homesick for London or more specifically Islington. I had good reasons for leaving at the time, though sitting now in the snow in my place of birth, Reykjavik Iceland – I must admit that I miss the train delays, mob in the street, seeing something new, that hard nose capitalism, queuing, noise and obviously serene days in the park.

  3. Duncan Killin 27 November, 2008 at 5:15 am - Reply

    I too am homesick for London, co-incidentally Islington, now on the West Coast of Scotland, which is a stunning place, but quite simply I miss what I’m used to.
    We couldn’t wait to get away from London at the time and wanted a better environment for our young daughter to grow up in, but the grass is always greener on the other side.
    I miss the access to culture and music, the mix of cultures from around the world, varied food and varied people.
    Here I see the same old faces everyday, same sort of food and here that dull very British trait of talking about the weather, which can be challenging, is even more prevalent.We all know what the weather is like, we do not have to state the obvious.
    Not sure what we will do, but I can’t see myself staying here long term.
    It’s hard when a place does not match your expectations, but it’s also hard not to have expectations.
    This is after one year, so will see if anything changes, it may just be a period of adjustment, but I didn’t think the change would be that difficult.

  4. Karen Christensen 29 November, 2008 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    It means a lot that this first post, of a blog that is keyed to a book I’ve been meaning to write (or finish) for many years, continues to find kindred spirits. And the timing of this last post is especially important because I am, this Thanksgiving weekend, working on a revised synopsis for the book so I can get it to a new agent. This has taken me back to London, and it’s great to hear from someone else who’s experienced the same need to leave, the same uncertainty about whether it was the right thing to do.

    More from me to come. I hope to hear more stories like this, and perhaps we can together figure out what a solution is–for ourselves, but for others, too.

  5. Tracy 2 January, 2009 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Count me in too. I lived in London for 7 years, then when my (British-born) husband and I married, we decided to move to the US (where I was born) because we were sick of the weather and the astronomical cost of living and we wanted to start our family where they would have more opportunity. We’re going back for a week in February to visit and though I can’t wait to go, I’m afraid it will make my homesickness for London even worse!

  6. Keith Oberman 25 April, 2009 at 6:25 am - Reply

    From living in London, Islington with my family I now am in Libya. The gulf is huge! Not only am I severely home sick, I hate the culture of the county we are in. Because I’m back in the mother land the social pressure is unreal.

    London please take us back!!

  7. twitter_WorkingSFComic 4 October, 2011 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    I know what you mean! I only spend a month a year in London for vacation but find myself missing it all the time and I live in San Francisco which most people consider a nice city (I like it–but it’s not London). I’m busy trying to save up the 200,000 pounds it takes to invest in London to get a Visa to live there permanently, but I’m afraid it may take me a few years. Until then I’ll just have to look forward to my four weeks and be homesick for a place that’s really not mine.

  8. Tine Dorothy Kooiman 30 July, 2012 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Karen, I know exactly what you mean. That feeling of homesick for London gives a tummy ache and I am even not British. However, having spend part of my youth overthere, you can imagine what an inpact it has been on my life. It’s a never ending love.

    An island greeting from Tine Dorothy

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