Monday, July 12, 2010

Coming back to the UK

I flew down to London and had never landed at Gatwick Airport before. I was struck by how tidy and relaxed everything was compared to Heathrow and immediately liked it. But the coin had a flipside. We waited for ten minutes or more in the plane because they couldn’t find the dude who was gonna drive the bridge to be attached to the air-craft for us to alight. And then in the passport control they had loads of checkpoint-desks, but less than a handful of positions open so the queues were long to say the least. After a while it picked up though. They saw that there were too many people for the few gates and slowly opened a few more, but then we had been there for a while. Gatwick was nicer and more relaxed than Heathrow both for better and for worse. Modern comfort with Mexican siesta-time efficiency!

I took the train in to St. Pancras and met Shzr Ee outside the national library. We had some food in the sunshine and talked about near and far. She had just come back from fieldwork in East Asia. A hot day in London and I could almost fool myself to feel like I was back in South East Asia for a moment. I had stuffed my hand luggage inside my big backpack and it was warm enough to trek around with! Shzr Ee wondered if I had packed all my survival gear in there, but was excited to hear I had packed some Norwegian breads from mom.

The night before in Norway I had looked online at train tickets from London to Leeds. I was trying to book quite late and I ended up taking a bus instead, since it was more than 70 Pounds difference between the two alternatives. Two and a half hours on a train against four and a half on a bus… I knew which one I thought I would prefer. The swift efficient comfort of the train sounded tempting, but I was in for a treat. Seeing the land from the road is different. I remember taking a bus through the Czech countryside once, on a stretch where I was used to taking the train. We went through villages, on farm-roads and came closer to where people lived. Many modern roads are built on top of several hundred years old foundations. People have walked them for centuries and hence you find the natural demographics of people in those same natural geographical lines. Planes, hills, valleys, woods, rivers… -where people live and have always lived. Railroads are usually cut right through the landscape in the most efficient way and planned to minimize the interference with local settlements and everyday life apart from its stations. Seeing a country from a road and from a railroad teaches you different things. Or at least shows you different impressions. Like an impressionistic painting, fragments of green and yellow fields mixes with blue skies and white clouds, farmhouses, towns, cities, the manmade and the natural and becomes one nice big blur to a tired traveller. Swift, linear, efficient and interrupted lines from the train; softer, calmer, more winded and following society and geography’s natural paintbrush more from the bus. Two different views and I was in no hurry anyway. Never mind we got stuck in the London traffic and spent an extra hour to get out, I enjoyed the trip.

The bus finally stopped just around the corner from my house. I was back and had missed the English winter but gained the Norwegian one instead. Six months since I set my feet here the last time and now it is summer. I took my keys out and held the door opener in front of the sensor. “Bliiip” and the door went up. I checked my mailbox and it wasn’t too full cause Lara had been here emptying it for me not long ago. I went into the lift and found that the “close the door button” had stopped working. Apart from that everything was like before. Or almost… I looked into the big wall-to-wall mirror and thought, “what am I doing here?” Sure, I know I’m off to my friends wedding in a couple of days, but apart from that. Why have I not yet let go of England? I thought I looked different. The mirror looked different as well. We were both the same as ever, but not quite. I left this place as a recently graduated student and came back as a…? Every time I’ve come back before I’ve had an agenda. That’s even why I got this place. “Mind the gap,” cause that’s where I am now.

I walked into the apartment and felt the sweet smell of home. It’s like Louis in “Interview with the Vampire” returning after centuries to a new age. My work-desk, instruments, loudspeakers, mixer and computer-screen were all covered in light cloth by my best 19th century abilities as to not dust down, and it looked quite nice. Like coming back from holiday when I was a kid or seeing a Victorian period drama where the character returns to his summer-residence. From the look of some of my slightly faded books by the window I should have included my bookshelves in the scheme as well. Anyway, all my life as I knew it was covered by white and light yellow cloth and I liked it so I kept it. –At least for a few days till after I had written this so I wouldn’t forget how it felt. The bigger question is if I will remember how it used to feel, the things I’ll see when I remove the cloth. I need something new to remember!

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