We arrived home without the expected three explosive flashes that accompany the moment of return from voyages back to the future. The sharp intake of breath as we entered our glacial stone house created more of a whimper than a bang. Each rare visit to London, aside from the delight and pleasure of seeing our family and friends, leaves me with distinctly ambivalent emotions. The experience is akin to an encounter with an old flame, after the passage of many years. An accumulation of thick slap hiding the running repairs is suddenly apparent, whilst simultaneously there is the realisation that time has erased all signs of the original attraction leaving only shared memory. Being no longer a part of London, I have ceased to accord her enough tolerance and have become openly and unfairly critical of all of her shortcomings. I now believe that not only can the boy be taken out of London, but that London can most certainly be taken out of the boy. Chalk and cheese are as a mirror image of each other in comparison with London and La Moussiere, where I now feel at home and at peace. However, despite my splenetic reactions, the de Lorean expedition was deeply fruitful, and in so many ways. Rather than the plethora of “artisan” shops, that offer food at the price of a pair of handmade shoes ( and often as digestible), I am irresistibly drawn to the wonderful produce in the ubiquitous Middle Eastern shops. Piles of pomegranates, fat bunches of fresh green herbs, tiny cucumbers, merguez sausages, piles of perfectly trimmed pink lamb chops, row upon row of every sort of dried fruit, nut or spice, flatbreads, fatbreads, honey dribbling cakes, volcanic harissa, argan oil, bargain oil, sumac and z’atar – just Aladdinesque. I would stuff sacks and suitcases full of the stuff to take back home, but it would need a king’s ransom to ferry it back and I just can’t countenance giving even a goat’s ransom, let alone a king’s, to the greedy Irishman with an aeroplane. Roads, like Golborne Road, have changed beyond recognition and so much for the better. Seeing Moroccan street food in London looks and smells wonderful although it’s probably been there for years, but I didn’t notice it as I was busy spending everything that I didn’t really have in very expensive places selling very ordinary fare. Racks of mint condition, second hand brown herringbone tweed jackets also caught my eye but, as I was pillion passenger on my son’s pannierless motorbike, they stayed there. Having fresh raspberries and blueberries for breakfast on any day of the year. Spending a day with my son, at his studio, plying the trade that he learnt with me.
Spending time with an old friend that I haven’t seen since I was 20 years old, and finding that we picked up the conversation where we left off last time. Sunday lunch in a restaurant with family, although I think Jamie Oliver might rethink the school dinner look at Union Jacks. Being with my son, his wife Julia and their children Sonny and Flossy. Altogether worth firing up the de Lorean yet again.