It’s sunny outside and I’ve been drinking lots of tea. This morning I went for a run in Tatton Park, through the shaded forest, down the meandering path, past the fisherman in his tent on the side of the lake, past the man throwing a red ball for his spaniel, past the old couple holding hands on a bench. There were orange and black butterflies flitting through the long grass, aeroplanes streaking white tails through the blue sky, the sound of insects in the air.
I’m sleeping better than I’ve slept in months. I’m sure it’s because I am not listening out for any of my own children calling for me. Or jolting awake to a faulty house alarm. My sleep is deep and long.
I get to hold a little newborn in my arms every morning and am reminded of how miraculous life is. How strong the bonds of family are. And mostly, how much I have to be grateful for. This trip was perfectly timed, in terms of my state of mind. It’s like I can take a big breath and reset and see clearly once again.
I’ve caught up with old friends in Borough Market, drank beers along the Thames, wandered past the red buses. Sat in a pub, drank glasses of prosecco, stared at the hipsters and the short skirts and soaked up the feeling of summer in the air. Spoke about belonging and being rootless and being an adult and how life gets harder as we get older, but also richer.
London is still London. The man next to me on the bus was fast asleep when we got on, with his head bent low onto his chest as he snored loudly and a long string of saliva extended from his chin down to his belt. On the tube from the airport in the early morning there were young men coming home from their night out, talking loudly and drinking energy drinks and I looked out the window as the light settled on to back gardens and terraces and apartment blocks.
I’ve been working too, and I’ve realised how lucky I am that I can work from anywhere in the world. I can Whatsapp call my business partner, read a brief from a client, send an invoice, chat to my accountant, finish off an article and submit it on time. That in itself is a privilege. And I’d forgotten.
I’d also forgotten that feeling of being “other” somewhere. Not understanding the processes in the checkout queue, not getting people’s jokes, not moving fast enough through the turnstiles. I’m obsessed with the different groceries though. I walk round and round the stores, marvelling at the resealable cheese packets, the huge selection of biscuits, the delicious juices, the prepackaged salads and “protein jars”, the paprika crisps and flavoured popcorns and huge punnets of perfect looking blueberries.
But mostly I revel in the moments when I can be independent and alone. Wandering slowly through a field with no one to answer to. Lying on a blanket on the grass reading a magazine. Sitting on a train staring into the spaces outside the glass. Time alone is a healer for me and it was just what I needed.