I haven’t felt so apprehensive in quite a while, but as I wheel my case out through the deserted customs lobby and into the arrivals area of Heathrow Terminal 4 it turns out that my fears were unfounded.
Even after a prolonged absence, the places that you’ve lived and loved are really not that different to come back to. When I first arrived in San Francisco I felt more than a little lost, confused by the unfamiliarity of it all. Flying back to London I feel myself settling comfortably into the old rhythms without any affort at all. Things aren’t exactly the same, but the main reason for that is the way in which things which used to be everyday suddenly jump out at you and demand attention.
And there it is – the down-at-heel, grimy air which permeates and pervades everything in Britain. Partly it’s due to age; the overwhelming weight of history. Partly it’s due to the fact that Britain is a strangely lazy, slobbish nation.
Also highly noticeable after a year’s absence, the peculiarly ineffectual English parenting technique of yelling “shaht aaahp” at your offspring (3 separate counts witnessed in the space of 15 minutes).
And the roads. The roads are tiny by the standards of the asphalt airstrips which Californians drive on.
But after that, it’s all the same. It’s all familiar. It’s reassuringly still home.