Some thoughts on being back in the UK

Being back home was comforting and strange. A blur of travelling, pausing, catching up with friends. Social occasions planned and co-ordinated, not much time for spontaneity. Because this trip had been so organised in advance, each meeting or occasion speculated upon & discussed, I felt somehow as though I was observing my own life from a distance – events looming towards me like islands seen from a ship’s deck, a few tranquil moments spent apprehending the fine detail of each shoreline as I pass, the ship’s course one-way and inexorable. It was good to speak with people again, sit with them and hear what they had to tell me. No-one was awkward or changed, everyone themselves – even more so, perhaps – our meetings like special occasions, treats.

Of course, changes have been happening in the lives of my friends, but these seemed subterranean, apprehended yet somehow not present to me in the familiar faces, speech patterns, demeanours. One or two of my friends expressed surprise at my remembering events – days, nights – a few weeks before I left England, so clearly. (I usually have a terrible memory so it made a change.) To me, these events felt as though they had happened about a month ago – in my ‘English time’ they had. For me, it feels like England & English ‘time’ has been on pause for a year – of course to my friends, life had carried on, the familiar days, weeks and months intervening to make those weeks prior to my leaving now seem distant to them. I wonder if this means it felt to them that I have been away longer, an age, wheareas I felt it had hardly been any time at all.

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