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England

Journey Home

Next week is my last as an official resident of London, and nostalgia set in on my morning jog. Since my gardening leave started, I’ve taken to running husband into work as far as the Park Lane crossing where the animals in war memorial is. Then I turn back and head for the Serpentine before crossing into Kensington Gardens. It’s a route we’ve run a hundred times, every weekend before we started spending them in the country. Somewhere around the duck pond, slick with the morning’s swan shit and presided over by the alabaster Queen Victoria at the far west end, I started to get misty and take in the detail.

I cut through the Kensington Palace grounds along the sunken garden, then up and out across Bayswater Road to St Petersburgh Place. Here is my favourite row of brick houses, each with a round window in the front door. It’s left on Moscow Road, past the Greek Orthodox cathedral of St. Sophia where we once heard music and plates being broken from the basement windows. The next right takes me along a block of arched upper floors with wrought iron balconies, briefly transforming Hereford Road into a an architectural doily. Then it’s a cut over a block to the west to go up Chepstow Road, which always reminds me of New Orleans with it’s tin balcony roofs and wrought iron filigree pillars. The building that houses the basement flat we once lived in has been reconverted to a family house, the brick red front door now replaced with a Tiffany’s box blue one.

On cue my ipod, on shuffle, started playing a Shostakovich piece made for a film noir chase scene as I rounded the corner into the northern, less salubrious reaches of Notting Hill. It was past the two continuous city blocks of satellite dish studded Brunel Estate flats, under the Westway, and over the non-sequitur Candy Land bridge of sky blue and gold painted ironwork before the chirpy, lazy “A Sleepin’ Bee” sung by Cassandra Wilson ushered me back to my home for now.

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