A hundred years ago, or more accurately, almost seventy years ago, my mother and I moved to London from Vancouver and lived there for three years. So, for me, it's sort of my childhood home. Not a happy childhood home. We arrived just a few years after WWII had ended, and my first view of the city was very dismal indeed. Bombed buildings and rationing. And people thoroughly traumatized by their experience. As a result, this Canadian kid who had never heard an air raid siren or had to spend a night in a shelter listening to the terror outside, who had never been deprived of fresh fruit or vegetables, whose experience of rationing was very limited (me)--I was not really welcome. I hated England when I lived there. And yet--despite all of the above--I always feel at home when I visit London.
We had been terribly poor in those dark post-war days, Mum and I. Sometimes we were actually homeless. One night we spent just walking around the city because we had nowhere to go. Another night, we slept in a train station, but I don't remember which one.
I feel at home there because that's where my cousins are. And even one or two friends. So the hotel was not an issue this time.
Our first night, was just to get settled. The next evening, my cousins came and picked us up and we went to the theatre. I had been able to get seven seats in the Royal Circle at the Noel Coward Theatre. The show was called "Half a Sixpence"--and I wish I could recall the names of the performers. They were amazing.
The second day, we spent visiting these same cousins, spending a wonderful evening catching up and reminiscing. Almost all of them had been to Canada at some time or another, and we had a great time. I can't bear to think this could be our last time together, as we are all getting rather long in the tooth.
The third day, I met with a friend I hadn't seen since I was about thirteen and she was about 18 months old. We met at the entrance to the Tower of London, and spent the afternoon together there. I had baby-sat for her when we had lived next door to one another in 1951. While she and I had our visit, my husband and son had a tour of London--disappointing, they said. The city is changing so much that it is hardly recognizable.
Then we caught a train to Wales.