Wherever I lay my hat
I’m from everywhere and nowhere, I don’t call anywhere home. The same year I was born, Marvin Gaye wrote and recorded the song “wherever I lay my hat (that’s my home)” – maybe if hats suited me, I’d feel at home somewhere!
Before I became a British expat, I lived in London, and it’s to this city I’ve returned to spend 3 months for a business trip. I wasn’t born or brought up in London, but it was my home-base of choice when I was old enough to make a decision for myself, and my bank account could support the lifestyle I hankered for.
Old Stomping Ground
I had a short trip to London earlier in the year, and ended up on the border between Borough and “the Elephant”. It was my first (and last) sojourn into South London. For this extended trip I decided I needed somewhere a little more familiar.
The last place I lived before I left for pastures new (and sunnier) all those years ago, was West London. So when I was patrolling the websites for a serviced apartment in central London, it seemed natured to favour that area. I hummed and hahed over 1/2 a dozen flats, and my first choice – right opposite the Natural History museum was a Victorian beauty, that was unavailable – so I opted instead for a apartment just around the corner from my old flat in Earls Court.
I had visions of retracing my steps around my old stomping grounds, to see if bars and restaurants from the old days, still existed. The closest tube, South Kensington, was the going to be my local tube stop again. So before I’d even touched down at Heathrow, I was already feeling at home.
High Rise Monstrosity
I arrived in London on a cold and snowy Easter Monday, and was dropped off in front of a high rise monstrosity just off the Cromwell Road. I was met by a lovely lady from the property rental office, who gave me a tour of the flat, and showed me how all of the appliances worked – before she headed off.
I put my initial disappointment towards my surroundings, down to jet lag. The flat was small, dark and pokey. I toured around it time and time again, to see if it got better with age.
I questioned whether I was just being “American” — it was just so small, and everything in the US is so much bigger. But convinced myself that “size doesn’t matter”.
On my victory lap of the flat, I started noticing the grubby fingermarks around the light switches and door handles. But the line of mould around the bath tub sent me over the edge…. and out the door to Waitrose to buy some bleach.
When I got back I cleaned and scrubbed like a virgin bride waiting for her mother-in-law’s first visit. But then stopped.
Reality struck, when I was standing there with cloth and bleach in hand, realizing how much this flat was costing per week.
I decided to sit on the sofa for a few minutes to contemplate next steps. Metal springs prodded me in my back, and were a sharp reminder of the lack of homeliness and comfort in my new abode.
But the final straw was when everything started to shake, rattle and roll, and an tube train traveling under the building rocked my world.
Even before the light fixture had stopped swinging, I was on the phone requesting a relocation.
There was no way I could come home to THIS everynight.