This Saturday me and Lynds went to visit friends in Wallington. We were talking, actually, on the train, about whether we’d like to live in London in the future, and I explained that while I’m happier in a smaller town, like Brighton, I feel like I have unfinished business in London, which is where I grew up. And that unfinished business is really nothing more than a growing feeling that I am losing touch with the city of my birth. When I left London for the last time, over a decade ago, I felt tired of the capital and broadly like I’d done everything there which I needed to. While one can always find new things in a city the size of London, my level of curiosity had declined, and I felt (probably wrongly) that I had the measure of it.
What I don’t like, now, is visiting places I remember from my teenage years and finding them either much changed or better/worse than I recalled them. Or someone asking me about a part of the city of which I know nothing. As a Londoner, I feel entitled to tell people about the city, to act like I know it innately, and the part of me which would like to live there again is not much besides the part of me which wants to map it again, conquer it, make it my neighbourhood once more. Which isn’t much reason to move.
Wallington’s a good example. Until the weekend, I’d never heard of it. It bothers me to be out of touch with geography. Although as it turns out, Wallington is right out of the way; in a part of the country which would properly be called Surrey had London not got so big for its boots, and so big. On the way I looked it up on my phone. Here are the three things I learned.
- Wallington was the centre of lavender oil production until the first world war. The plant still grows freely around the area. Lynds works for the Body Shop, so I made some hilarious jokes about her day out being a busman’s holiday.
- Zammo, the much-loved smack addict from Grange Hill, has a key-cutting shop in Wallington. This is amazing. It’s called Mentor Lock and Safe.
- I like the idea of rivers in London that aren’t the Thames. The River Wandle runs through Wallington.
We met up with Steve and Doro and inspected their house, which is new and lovely. We ate lunch, and sat down to watch a Bond film (Steve is your man if you like Bond films). Shortly before we started, someone (it may have been me) suggested we have a drink everytime Bond’s name is spoken. Or he makes a quip. Or uses a gadget. Or someone dies.
I don’t think we realised quite how disastrous this decision was ’til about 8 o’clock, when we realised the extent of our folly. Turns out quite a lot of people die at the end of Live and Let Die. And James Bond never bloody shuts up with the quips. I quietly resolved not to make so many stupid jokes in the future. And never to drink again. But actually, as it turned out, we were so insensible that only bed made sense, and after a long sleep I felt curiously fine the next day. Miracle.