Yesterday was a snow day. The first proper snow day in years. Also the the first time in weeks I’ve shot some film. I’ve been feeling pretty uninspired lately. The light in January is also rubbish. On cloudy days, the sky is too bright grey. I’ve been digging around the archives a bit instead, and yesterday’s weather drew me back to this image I took on another snow day probably 10 years ago.
Maybe it was a reminder to myself at the time. Maybe it was a “notes to strangers” bit of art I was making. [I’m a big fan of this by the way. I am always reading notes on lamp posts.] Either way, it was more than likely a reference to deciding to move to London on my own. A city where I didn’t know anyone. With one suitcase, one job interview lined up, and a head full of dreams about bands I wanted to see. I don’t think I knew quite how tough it would be. That’s for the better, or I might not have done it.
And things have been tough sometimes over the years. But they have also been so damn great. There have been such high highs. I’ve always said that moving to London was one of the best things I ever did in my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am if I didn’t. I wouldn’t have the friends I did if I didn’t. Sure, I would’ve met other friends/people somewhere else, but I can’t fathom not having had the cool and meaningful interactions I’ve had with my current friends here. Your friends become pseudo family in a way, when you are far away from your own. So it’s been tough not seeing them in person much these last 10 months. I’m an introvert, so I’m generally pretty good with solo time. But I’m also a social creature, like most humans. And this prolonged social isolation / lack of physical interaction with other people might be my toughest stretch in London yet. It’s almost darkly humorous (is this the right phrase?) to say “you’re not alone in this”; so many other Londoners and people across the UK are in the same shitty boat.
My family all live in different countries in the southern hemisphere. The family group chat has been awash with pictures of summer holiday activities these last weeks. Pictures of them enjoying far greater freedoms than we do here at the moment. Camping, fishing, beach vibes, a new beach house even. The last one, the news of the beach house is the one that broke me a bit the other day. It wasn’t as much about the place itself, as realising I don’t know when I will see this place in person. Or see my family again. Not for many many months yet. The uncertainty of it is awful. And not seeing my “local family” (ie friends) doubles the awfulness.
In a conversation with my brother (12,000 miles away) the other day, I confessed that, for the first time since moving here, I’m thinking “What have you done? You’ve trapped yourself here.” I know it’s the poor handling of this pandemic by our government, and the continued flouting of social restrictions by people that have brought us here, but still. “It’s been 10 months of this, bro….” My sibs and I were raised in a way that have made us all pretty resilient. We keep going when things are hard, because that’s what we were taught to do. I don’t think I could’ve made a new life in London if I did know how to stick it out. But the resolve to stay strong wears thin, man.
In another conversation with a friend in Berlin, who lived in London for years, they suggested that we might think of time in London as investing in stock. For years we enjoyed high share prices, and suddenly the value of shares or being there has fallen. Suddenly times are hard. And we just have to ride it out. That’s probably the thing that keeps me going. Hoping that things will improve. Hoping to see people again. To hug and be hugged/held by them again. To enjoy good times again.
And what about the ongoing lockdown and London? In hard times I always come back to the last line of My City by George the Poet, “if you can take the rough with the smooth, then it’s on”. That’s true for life in general. No one said it would be easy.