Miraculously, after having been through the last wonderful, intense weeks, I am developing some confidence that my life will just carry on being exciting – and I am realising that it might be less about the place where I live than about me and my ability to take up on the world around me and get excited.
I’ve liked being a foreigner. I’ve always felt as a stranger and living abroad amongst so many other strangers just seemed to be the right thing. It helped clarifying my identity. There is no country I could go ‘home’. It was here in London watching the Chinese film Summer Palace that I realised what it had meant to me that the country I am from did not longer exist. I am not looking for a home anymore but wonder how it will feel to live in a country that is supposed to be my home.
What departing really means is that everything that is significant now loses its importance in the future. It is the nature of change that things one cares about now will become less relevant and drift from the centre towards the edges of one’s life. Once I’ve left the stream of London, the city will never be the same again. It will become a stranger and one day I might even wonder what I’ve ever found so appealing about this place. It is most likely that soon, I will never find MY London back. It will be a mere piece of memory, getting smaller and smaller.
No man ever steps in the same river twice (Heraclitus) – and no man ever steps in the same city twice. How much I fear what is going to happen.
I would give everything to go back to this night five years ago when I arrived in a shabby hotel room in West Hampstead right by the tracks of the overground, nervous, anxious, exhausted, having spent a day paralysed in the armchair of a home I didn’t know that night would never be my home again. I didn’t know that night that I would exchange a home for a whole city. I didn’t know that night what the city would mean to me very soon. I didn’t know I would have to leave the city five years later without having offered me a home or any permission to stay other than as a bohemian.
When I first visited Germany after I had moved to London, I survived the tediousness of Bremen by singing the then recently discovered songs by The Libertines. I proudly went through the streets thinking that I had the London feeling in my head which wouldn’t leave me wherever I went. I cant’t tell how much I am hoping it will ever stay with me like a suitcase I carry with me through the world.
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow
See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath
Let me, let me freeze again to death.
Klaus Nomi’s disturbing interpretation of Henry Purcell’s The Cold Song.
“There must be some kind of way out of here,” / Said the joker to the thief, / “There’s too much confusion, / I can’t get no relief. / Businessman they drink my wine, / Plowman dig my earth / None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey” / “No reason to get excited,” / The thief, he kindly spoke / “There are many here among us / Who feel that life is but a joke / But you and I, we’ve been through that / And this is not our fate / So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”. Jimi Hendrix: All Along The Watchtower
Life is only on earth and not for long. Taken from Lars von Trier’s latest film Melancholia.
Sometimes, there is this longing for England in me. For something English I have never touched. It’s a phantasy of a cottage with a big armchair by a fireplace in a small room with old books and wallpaper by William Morris, and a neat kitchen with two black-and-white cats, and a rosebush by the door and a garden where soon you would find the first snowdrops. And then I am thinking that snowdrops may be the only flowers I shall see this year in England and by the time the gardens are in flower, I might have left.
While he writes, I feel as if he is drawing me; or not drawing me, drawing on me – drawing on my skin – not with the pencil he is using, but with an old-fashioned goose pen, and not with the quill end but with the feather end. As if hundreds of butterflies have settled all over my face, and are softly opening and closing their wings.
But underneath that is another feeling, a feeling of being wide-eyed awake and watchful. It’s like being wakened suddenly in the middle of the night, by a hand over your face, and you sit up with your heart going fast, and no one is there. And underneath that is another feeling still, a feeling like being torn open; not like a body of flesh, it is not painful as such, but like a peach; and not even torn open, but too ripe and splitting open of its own accord.
And inside the peach there’s a stone.