Mar 24, 2006

LONDON – Sun and spring veiled the city, increasing its loveliness. London's never endeared itself; ten years ago, I was painfully broke one dreary autumn in Camden and I just can't forgive The Big Smoke.

Grudge aside, I do appreciate the wry humor, bright lights and dear friends there. And today London's playing a seductive, nostalgic tune, all splayed under the syruping golden light. How I've missed England! How happy I am to return!

And how locked out of the flat I am!

I retire to The Queens, a crusty pub in Crouch End, to await the end of Anna's shift. My head dangles like a deflated balloon. Straight off the redeye, I want only to sleep.

A pint of real ale is the next best thing to a nap, obviously. Plus a helping of chunky-cut chips. I surreptitiously charge my UK mobile – not that the Swedish server cares – and grin round the room.

Forget the rowing couple, the chain-smoking geezer, the fact I'm stuck down the pub for five hours; I'm happy to be home.

Well, home of a sort.

Last trip, I realized that England will always be part of me, but I'm no longer part of it. This exile stung in October 2005. Six months later, I am a happy magpie, feathering my nest as I please: Jeeves without Jordan, Henny's without Henman, ginger snaps sans Ginger Spice.

The balancing act isn't easy. Nor am I perfectly adroit (Wilma floundered past entirely: was I busy stargazing in Arizona or snowbathing in Quebec? Exactly how does a journalist miss a bottlenose whale in the Thames, given the brave new world of Google Alerts?).

But I can still recover enough of what I need.

Never mind the bollocks. Or the gaps.

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