Coming Home (but not just yet)

London, Observatory

I’m the first person to tell you how much I love London, but there’s one day I dread around this time. I know it’s irrational, but coming back from holiday is a bit more horrible every year, and this year will be the worst.

I’ll spend several lifespans at airport check-in behind a sunburned hulk in a sleeveless top as he tries to blag his way on board with hand luggage the size of a desk.

I’ll be served by an Easyjet trollista who’s clearly decided to abandon his actual job (dispensing nuts and holding up tuna baps) for a career as a comedian.

I’ll disembark behind a girl who urgently needs to call someone on her mobile and discuss makeup purchases before the plane’s finished taxiing to a stop.

I’ll arrive late needing a pint of milk and some teabags, to find twenty drunks returning from a stag weekend in Latvia queuing to buy porn mags in the only open shop. For reasons known only to themselves they’ll be dressed as Vikings, although some will be wearing grass hula skirts.

I’ll sit in a train carriage that looks like it has been used to ferry incontinent survivors from a major disaster area, and rub grit from my eyes as Kestrel cans roll across the aisle. Several teenagers who appear to be sartorially trapped in the Ali G era will board the train with their own sound systems. Next to me, a Japanese couple will clutch their bags and peer anxiously through the graffiti, searching the dim platforms for signage.

At the King’s Cross platform, two inebriated gentlemen of the road will be singing a Killers cover into Budweiser bottles. Outside, everything will look like it’s been sprayed in wet dust. Someone will be slumped over an illuminated traffic island bollard being sick. Several hundred people who had been held captive in the Egg nightclub over the weekend will be weaving their shell-shocked way towards the tube. That Austrian girl who was locked in a cellar for ten years will look healthier.

Finally I’ll join a troop of bag-dragging tourists and wade waist-deep through flyers and beer cans until I reach my front door, where someone will be having a pee.

The upside to this miserable London welcome will be that it’s easy to escape again, volcanoes and strikes permitting.

7 comments on “Coming Home (but not just yet)”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Can you not arrange a flight that will get you home about noon so you can return to glorious daytime London; the sun shining on the immaculate streets, the glinting windows and the colourful flower gardens in parks and flower baskets everywhere while serious students and business people enjoy quiet lunches on the library and museum steps and women bustle past heading home with their shopping?

  2. I.A.M. says:

    Ignore the description of the tourist-based idyll above.

    If you want a truly effective way of feeling that the return home wasn’t a mistake, walk into the Flying Scotsman Pub for five minutes. This way, walking outside will reveal that King’s Cross isn’t as bad as it actually might be. Okay, it’s taking things to extremes, but it’ll work.

  3. Martha says:

    OMG! – is the Flying Scotsman still in business? Do they still have day-time strippers?

    Helen Martin is being ironic – I hope; either that or she doesn’t fly EasyJet. Look at it this way at least it’s not Ryan Air.

  4. Mary says:

    Christopher…you’re a witty guy, and I sure needed a smile! I seem to recall in the sixties that things were pretty grim on the last District Line train to Richmond.You’ve reassured me…I don’t need to fly unless an emergency!

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Nope, Easy Jet isn’t an option and our flight did get in at noon and it was September with the sun shining – which it did for pretty well our whole month. I will admit that our last exposure before the airport headed home was a 5 am view of two young men puking on the sidewalk while on their way to rescue girlfriends who were being thrown out of the hotel for creating a disturbance. Focus on whatever you want to remember.

  6. Roxanne Gregory says:

    I have recently discovered your books, at least Bryant and May. As an Aussie with a daughter living in Surrey I am always keen to get back to the U.K. My husband and I love London and thanks to you and other authors who set their books in this city we find lots of quirky spots to visit. Can’t wait to return!
    Cheers Roxanne.

  7. If you tweet the words ‘Channel 4’ your tweet will appear on screens in the C4 lifts. Do your worst

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