I’M THE PROUD DAUGHTER OF AN IMMIGRANT. Her grandparents? Also immigrants. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d wager that their ancestors were nomads of some description, too – in my mind, exotic and a bit piratey, but with all their own teeth. I would accept circus folk as a solid alternative. It would explain a lot.
You could say, then, that upping sticks runs in the family, and that with this level of wanderlust in my blood, I was always destined to pack my bags – all 37 of them – and skip town one day, following the heady scent of adventure and/ or tax-free living.
NOPE. When the time came, I didn’t even fancy a gap yah, much preferring to remain in my own little fried chicken-filled pocket of south London. It’s not that I disliked travelling – far from it. I even climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo once, shortly before being peed on by an orangutan. I’ve also been dragged out of a minibus by my hair after it rolled down a ravine in the Cuban jungle. You couldn’t really accuse me of being the stay-at-home type. But I always wanted to know that, after 10 or so days, I could come back to Homes Under the Hammer, a decent brew, and – in the case of Borneo – a three week-long shower.
After all, there really is no place like home. The telly. The pubs. The diabolical weather and the unparalleled wit. The cabbies that know where to find you a chip butty at 3am on a Tuesday. And – especially in London – the sense that the ground relentlessly shifts beneath your feet, and if you don’t move, think, evolve quickly enough, it will topple you over, making way for a new generation who were born to keep up. It was the perfect storm of electric and exhausting and I loved every single minute.
When I first arrived, I dated someone who asked me, “So are you chasing a dream, or running away?”
It was a bit of a surprise when I decided to do one, then – most of all to me, a woman who’d pledged allegiance to Topshop Oxford Circus a million times over. Sure, my two-bed flat at the dodgy end of the Holloway Road was pokey and riddled with damp, but it was also filled with neon art, year-round Halloween decorations, and more lipsticks than MAC; the result of sharing it with a bonkers Welsh beauty- editor goth – a strong candidate for World’s Best Flatmate.
We perved on bands at our grubby dive of a local, Filthy McNasty’s, and hung out
with our cute, parkour-loving downstairs neighbour who, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, I maintain taught me to beatbox to a competent level. Life was great. So, of course, it took something of seismic proportions to rip me away from it.
Annoyingly, that something was good old lose-a-stone-in- a-week, cry-on-the-phone-to- Santander-style heartbreak. I apologise that I’m quite so predictable, and not actually in Dubai because a giant pigeon chased me into Heathrow Terminal 3, or because I’m really in witness protection. No, I’m here because – being a tad on the dramatic side – I thought the best way to teach my ex a lesson was to abscond from a country he didn’t give two hoots if I was living in or not. Cunning.
Turns out, it actually was. It’s the strongest, most life-affirming example I’ve ever had that plot twists can become The Path so fast that anything that came before just seems ridiculous. Of course I’m meant to be here. Of course. Where else would I possibly be?
It took a while to get there though, I won’t lie. When I first arrived, I dated someone who asked me, “So are you chasing a dream, or running away?” A few months later, I remember being asked why I thought it was hard to meet someone in Dubai. “Because everyone that moves here is damaged,” I mirthlessly told a man who miraculously then stuck around long enough to become my boyfriend.
But maybe we are. Maybe we’re all a bit cracked, a bit bruised… here because we’re running away and chasing a dream all at once. All of us refused to stay knocked down, though. Maybe that’s why this town is so full of dreamers and adventurers in the first place – fellow fearless spirits who took a leap of faith to get here and so demand a bigger life than the one they left behind.
These are my type of people. Cracked, bruised, knocked – just like me – but willing to join the joyride regardless. It’s what makes our city special. And as for home? I now have two. And thankfully, one is really sunny.