Sometimes you get this feeling, like you just need to leave. To run away, pack a small bag and go anywhere. Out into the country or over the sea. Anywhere you’d see a different sunset, anywhere no one would know your name. Anywhere you could be someone new.
And then you have one of those London days where cold clouds burn off too late and the evening is strangely sultry and everyone is looking around surprised like how did this come to be, and everyone has got in a park and all the restaurants have their fronts folded back and their windows open and people are sitting outside remembering romantic trips to the south of France. And you take a long back route walk home, see Georgian terraces turn into Victorian semi detached and then pre war semis.
Somehow the evening light is blue and not that smog smudgy grey. Everywhere looks beautiful, peaceful. There are no cars in the back roads, and for a moment you are so perfectly alone you can stand in the middle of the road looking up at the evening light, and the aeroplane trails in the sky.
Walking further, people begin to reappear. Couples leave the park, passing bottles of wine between them. A fitness group is drifting apart towards the stations or the bus stops. Every house that has a balcony has someone on it, and every flat roof has someone smoking a cigarette.
For a while the houses are so big, they seem almost American, and yet they are perfect in this south London suburb. As the road begins to climb the hill, every house seems to have roses in the front garden, their colours deepening in the late July dusk.
The music sings “how does it feel?” And it feels like rebirth. Like the summer light is washing away your cares, and each step of your tired leg is reminding you that you are not a rolling stone. You are not wandering through the world, these quiet streets are everything you’ve always known. This is your country, this is your sea. These simple curving roads where every house is different and new sit alongside old in a happy, relaxed jumble, just as beautiful as anything you’ve ever seen. As beautiful as the turreted mini mansions of the Washington DC streets leading up to National Cathedral, or the steeply winding back streets in the South of France.
You fall in love softly, with every quiet step, as true dusk falls. As you reach your own road, the only light is from flickering TV screens, and street lights half obscured by trees. No one stirs as you turn your corner, except the three street cats; milkpaws, colonel fluffy, and fatty tangerine, who wind themselves around your legs, head butting your shins with their soft faces, welcoming you home like a grand committee sent from heaven because that’s exactly what you need.
And then you are at home, leaning against the kitchen counter, waiting for the kettle to boil. Life is ordinary again, but the calm remains, born of a moment of quiet in the wild, a moment of wildness in the quiet streets. Solitude amongst a city of eight million, strangeness in a familiar land.