Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Bitter Sweat City

Image credit tompagenet via flickr

It's been 17 months since I started writing this blog. Give or take. And I have to confess, I feel like a bit of a fraud these days. I mean, take the title. London held so much for me back then, and it always will, but now it holds memories, not promises. I waited a long time to find what I was looking for in London, then I found it. I found him, more precisely. And now, every day I'm here feels like I need to start looking for somewhere else.

I've only been home for five minutes and it's 6.45pm. I finish work at 5.30pm, if I leave on time, which is rare at the moment, and it's taken me over an hour. That kind of daily commute wears you down after a while. Just getting onto the bus today, I took a couple of elbow jabs in my ribs, but nothing terrifying; it's just the average midweek homeward rush excitement that everyone who takes the 59 from Waterloo to Streatham seems to get.

On the bus there are shrieking children, crying babies in enormous prams, a host of not-too-personal stereos, and people sitting at the back of the bottom deck who frankly could do with investing in much more rigorous hygiene protocols. The bus driver is pissed off with us, with the traffic, with the weather - heavy tropicalian downpours one minute, sunshine reflecting off chrome bumpers the next. The air is dirty and heavy and all too still on the bus, as we all fight for elbow room for the Evening Standard, which every now and again gets rustled, irritatedly, by my travelling neighbour.

Increasingly I feel this beautiful, dynamic, crazy city is wearing me out. Maybe I am just prone to feeling more tired more often these days. Maybe I'm showing my age. Maybe it's just the first full week back at work in about a month and I'm feeling sorry for myself.

But the drive to move, to see, to go, is pulling at me, hard. The urge to take a leap, break free, do something worthwhile, and all those other clichés, is stronger than ever.

Luckily the man in my life is feeling the same way. It's a good thing I don't have to convince him about any kind of adventure. He was born ready. "Let's go and work in Africa", he says. "Let's run a bed and breakfast. Let's do a road trip across America. Let's run a jam farm."

Any or all of these options are attractive (especially the jam. Yum.) But the need to do something productive, from which I can gain tangible results, is important to me too. So we get to thinking about VSO. Something, somewhere at the back of my memory, reminds me that a maths teacher of mine once did a stint in Eritrea for VSO. Facebook comes into its own. BAM. I've fired off a friend request and an email faster than you can say 'opportunist'.

Mr B, let's call him, after 17 years or so, remembers me well. I'm tickled. But I'm much more interested in what he has to say about his volunteer experiences. He says it was the two best years of his life. He also says it was bloody hard work, and could be very isolating at times. He is keen to stress that the organisation might be very different now to when he was a part of it, but that they were looking for people who fit their mould, who shared the values and ambitions of the project. That they were matching people to roles, not the other way around, and that there were a number of hoops that he had to jump through in order to even get onto their books, as it were. The process from initial enquiry to beginning his posting was one year.

So I figure the end of next summer can be our own timetable for action. Maybe in another 17 months, this blog will have ceased to be what it originally was. Maybe I'll have to change its name, or start a new one. Whatever happens, you'll read about it here first.


  1. We shall see!

    (Wow, you left this a long time ago and I've only just replied. How terribly rude of me. I'll understand if you never leave me any comments again. Although of course I hope you will.)