A few posts ago, I wrote of my restlessness and my desire to wander; and my deep yearning for faraway places, for family and old friends. In the last three months or so, I have been doing exactly what I said I needed to do – wander restlessly, visiting old places and new, and spending time with friends and family.
At the time I wrote also of a hard choice I had to make – a metaphorical, and perhaps also, admittedly to some degree, literal, choice between remaining where I was, or dropping everything and taking flight. Part of my wandering these last few months was so that I may gain sufficient wisdom and inspiration to make that choice.
Last week, my journey took me finally to London, another city I used to call home, and the city that has, for me at least, most represented CHANGE and NEW BEGINNINGS. Not least because of its dynamism and its energy. But more importantly because each time I have found myself emotionally and professionally at a fork in the road, needing to make a hard choice, I have inadvertently found myself physically here, in this City on the Thames.
But this time, London itself had beaten me to the game of choice, so it seems.
For starters, there was Brexit. I arrived in London some two days after the fateful LEAVE vote, disappearing almost immediately for two weeks to Kent, Palermo and Brighton, before returning to London to witness the S#@$, so to speak, hitting the Fan.
As the bumbling, hypocritical fools who had campaigned for the LEAVE vote resigned en masse, one after another; as it became clear that many of those who had voted to LEAVE had not fully understood what they were voting for, nor the implications of their vote; and as the Scots, who had voted REMAIN, cried foul and began clamouring for another Independence Referendum, threatening the very fabric of the United Kingdom itself, London (who, incidentally, had voted to REMAIN) seemed to sink under the weight of a post-natal, post-apocalyptic depression.
The general atmosphere of dourness was uplifted, only barely, by the eleventh hour appointment of Ms Theresa May of the Tory Party as Prime Minister. Ms May is only the second lady PM to ever be appointed in the history of the UK, the first being the late Margaret Thatcher. The day she took office at 10 Downing Street, one daily took to commenting on how her husband “stole the show” as First Man with his “sexy navy suit” and black brogues, satirically weighing in on the media’s gender-bias.
Brexit wasn’t the only “new beginning”, so to speak, in London that week.
It so happened that an aunt of mine – who had lived in London for more than 25 years – had also cast her own LEAVE vote, of sorts, deciding to leave London and move her life back to Singapore. And so we spent a final afternoon together at the Tate Modern – one of our favourite places to hang out in – lunching, lingering in the galleries, generally reminiscing the good times we had had in the city, and saying somewhat misty-eyed goodbyes to each other.
True, there was something a little disingenuous about our mutual goodbyes, particularly since we would be seeing each other again in less than three months, and possibly with far greater frequency than we had done when I was living in Singapore and she in London. But something had definitely changed. Something had ended. Never again would we have tea, do silly, boozy lunches or take to the museums together in London.
To us both, this represented the passing of an era. And we were saying goodbye not to each other, but to the city that had been the backdrop to so much good fun and fond memories.
Because without my aunt there, the city was no longer the same. And she knew that. We toasted the passing of time. And also a new beginning for both of us.
Which brings me back to the point about change and hard choices. Just before I left for London, I was given to understand by a stroke of fate that the options I had had to choose between earlier on, were no longer the same ones. Out of the blue, another path had revealed itself and the hard choice I had to make was no longer quite so straightforward.
I already knew by the time I got to London, that I would vote for CHANGE, like the UK and my aunt had. I knew that there was no possibility of my returning back to the very same place I had been all this time. As of the end of this month, I would have spent four full years in Singapore, and as my track record reveals, I have not stayed so long in any one place in the last decade at least.
I sense a new beginning taking shape. Quite an unconventional one – for me, at least – and for the moment, completely amorphous and unclear; but a new beginning all the same.
In the meantime, goodbye London! I will see you again when all the world, and me in it, would have changed irrevocably. Hopefully for the best.