I've tried several times, now, to write about our last weeks in London, but my thoughts just keep getting jumbled and there are too many conflicting ideas and moments that I haven't ever really been able to convey.
Here's something I started to write about moving out of our flat:
I spent Thursday packing boxes.
Two years of a shared existence in our comfortable corner of west London packed and stacked and stowed away like the ark of the covenant and the flat scrubbed clean of any trace of us before being handed over to the next couple. On Friday afternoon I sat on the bath's edge, smoothing creases out of a shirt while Georgie wiped the taps. I caught her eye in the mirror and we shared a smile. I have spent a lot of my life moving away from things rather moving towards things. Making decisions about the future based only on the knowledge of what I don't want. This decision has always felt like something we are both going towards, has always felt like a positive, proactive step for us, but sat in that bare bathroom in the empty rooms of our home, I think both of us felt the impact of what we are doing.
Because moving to Africa is not really complicated enough, we've also been planning our wedding, and going to view venues has been a welcome distraction. I can't share too much about that here, at this point, but we've got a lot done and there will be more information to follow soon. Watch this space, or more likely your email inbox, as we probably won't share too much in such a public forum…
Last Saturday we enjoyed leaving drinks with friends. It was nice to see so many people, but it also reminded me quite sharply how many other people I haven't been able to see in this time. A month ago it seemed like we had forever to see everyone and do all we wanted to do, but the time has compressed and the volume of things to be done has expanded and here we are, the day before leaving, and still a list of things to be done. So it goes. Nevertheless is was great to see such a great assortment of cousins, parents, aunts and friends all together in one spot. It actually felt really special, especially since several people had travelled a great distance to get there, especially mum who had driven almost every road in London before arriving.
I left The Dove on Monday amid a degree of curious fanfare. My fancy dress costume for the leaving party – I went as a man about to move to Africa, most of whose belongings are in storage – was put to shame by the menagerie of animal onesies sported by my erstwhile colleagues that demonstrated a charming level of confusion about the kind of wildlife we can expect to encounter out there. It was a fun night with a group of fantastic people that I will miss a lot. It always felt like an honour bestowed on me that I was allowed to run The Dove, and even though my tenure was short it is a period I will remember fondly.
Here's some more I wrote about leaving The Dove:
As I hugged Lou and said goodbye, the first fat drops of rain were already spotting the pavement from a sulphur orange sky and I was glad, as I walked away, that these kind of moments were not just confined to the movies, but that sometimes real life could be poetic, and bittersweet, too.
I wrote that after a certain amount of fine Fullers ales, so you must excuse my sentimentality.
On Tuesday Georgie's parents cooked us a delicious roast dinner and we said our goodbyes to Georgie's aunts who have both looked after us so kindly whilst we've been in London- from giving me work in the early days to helping us move out and clean the flat at the end, and all they have done in between. I have never had so many goodbyes, and each one has been a reminder of the great deal of people who have helped and supported Georgie and I throughout our relationship and especially over the last two years here. And each time you catch yourself feeling sad you feel silly because you know you will be back here in August which is really not such a long time.
Yesterday we had a day of tourism in London. We even got on the wrong tube which I'm sure Georgie did deliberately so we could get the full effect. We saw dinosaurs at the Natural History museum and speculated on which was most likely to have ended up advancing to the stage of running a complex transport network or editing a newspaper had the meteorite not hit, and then we had cocktails at the Shard, the view from which looked a bit like this:
This is a pretty good way to see London and although not quite as high as the uppermost viewing platform the cocktails more than make up for the fact. It's still pretty high up, though I do retain a certain amount of skepticism about the reality of the experience- the lift seems to move so impossibly quickly that I still wonder how high we actually rose and perhaps the view is just a projection on high definition tv screens.
Georgie said the only thing she missed from the view was the Shard itself and I was inclined to agree. So we went to find another rooftop bar which Georgie said was near St Paul's. Annoyingly, when we got to St Paul's the rooftop bar didn't seem to be visible from ground level which seemed to come as something as a surprise to her. Since we didn't know either the name or the location of the bar all might have been lost at this point, but as the picture below shows, we made it in the end.
We met Jack and Paula Ann here and had dinner in the restaurant below. It was strange saying goodbye to them, especially, because I am used to seeing them both so regularly over the last years. It was nice when Jack moved to Exeter to be closer to me, and nice again when he moved to London to do the same. So I'm pretty sure it is only a matter of time before some strange coincidence leads me to bumping into our new neighbours in Makeni and finding that it's those two again. I'd like that if it happened.
Here's a picture of Georgie wearing the Shard:
And here's the obligatory tourist-style picture from inside:
One final note on goodbyes – since Georgie first left Exeter and she and I began our long distance year, one person has done perhaps more for us than anyone. When I first visited Georgie here, in Helena's house, Helena went to enormous lengths to make me feel welcome and at home. And when I finally moved to London, she allowed us both to live here and was always ready with advice or support or a sympathetic ear whilst I was looking for work in the early months which might otherwise have been so difficult. When we moved out of our flat two weeks ago it was to Helena, again, that we turned and she has put us up here again and once again made us feel welcome and comfortable in her home. She even accommodated mum and Jack when they came down last weekend, and on Sunday morning we awoke to find she had left a cooked breakfast for us all in the oven. When I went to work on that Sunday afternoon I said goodbye to Helena, and then a little while later had a text from Georgie to say she had gone away for the week and we wouldn't see her before we left. We owe so much to Helena, without whose friendship we probably wouldn't have made it to this point, to the next big step in our lives, so I hope she reads this – as a goodbye and thanks – and when I feel sad writing that, I feel silly because I know we shall see her, and you all, in August – and that is really not such a long time.
With love and thanks and best wishes to all – next update from Africa!