I spent two years living in England as a kid. I can still recall so many tastes and smells: Bird’s Custard, yellow and smooth, floating over and around an apple crumble. The little bottles of milk and foil-wrapped biscuits they gave us every morning at school. Lime cordial. Shandy. Hovis bread.The smell of hedges, and rain, and diesel fuel.
And, I often have this dream: that I have returned to London and I am unable to get out of the hotel I’m in. I cannot see the sights. I cannot return.
So, emerging from Heathrow Airport into the tube and then out to the green and mist of early summer in London was thrilling. I was back! I could see the sights!
I was in London for an academic conference on theories and practices of transmedia, called Media Across Borders.
The Anti-Poverty Activist joined me in my adventure ( we were planning to head to Italy after the conference). She and I shuttled across London to art galleries, churches, bookstores and shops, each of us assailed by memory.
And the food? Well, my expectations were low, having lived in London when beans on toast were its highest culinary achievement. We were on our way to Italy: we weren’t in London for the food.
But several small pub meals impressed us with original takes on shepherd’s pie or savoury tart. Indian food in Brick Lane, Spanish tapas in Covent Garden, decent coffee and croissant in an Italian cafe in Russell Square: London has changed.
And, it hasn’t. The rain still glitters on cobblestones, the Tube is still miles of escalators underground.
They’re still selling petticoats on Petticoat Lane. I loved that. I can return.