Tuesday, 10 February 2009


This morning I got up with the intention of being very nostalgic. I spent the night sleeping next to everything I own packed up in boxes and bags, and after having some toast this morning decided that I would walk to my favourite place from my front door one last time. My sister Laura was still asleep, and I thought it was actually fitting to do this alone.

So I walked out of my front door, past the rubbish the cats had strewn all over our walkway, down the little 'short-cut' alleyway with an unkempt park on one side, past the faded orange 'Gent's Hairdressing' storefront, past the black graffiti and painted slogans on Greatorex Street and up past the first of the curry houses and Indian wedding supplies stores along Hanbury Street.

You know how some days just have that feeling of 'anticipation'? Like the last day of school in summer and everyone has their shirts untucked and water fights break out mid-afternoon and teachers just put on music or movies because they don't care and the air seems full of the wishes of everyone that the day will end quickly and the wait for the last school bus is long and friends wave out of car windows and you know when you come back everything will be a little bit different? That is how I felt. Like a change was coming and all I could do was walk around and pre-emptively reminisce.

I have a favourite coffee shop on Brick Lane that I like to write in. It has a hodge-podge of vintage lounges, colourful table-tops, condiment containers made out of lego, little plastic dolls stuck to the cash register, big windows that look out onto the street, perfect laid-back indie music, a resident black Labrador that comes and goes as he pleases and sometimes comes and looks at you with his big dark eyes while you're writing, and decent (but not mind-blowing) coffee. I planned to go here and write for a bit one last time, but when I got there I discovered that 'my café' wasn't in the mood to comply with my floating, bittersweet nostalgia. It was closed for maintenance. So instead I walked to the end of the street and back down again, noticing little things that I hadn't before: a collection of beer cans wedged between two walls near the school, a broken lamp above a doorway, a tree growing out of a building.

I was a little annoyed that I couldn't do what I wanted, and I knew everyone would think I was silly for being all 'so long, farewell' about a place I can still visit easily enough, but it just felt like the end of something this morning.

Despite the spit on the streets and the chip packets and empty bottles and half-eaten bagels and scrunched-up paper plates stained with brown sauce and oil and the heavy smell of alcohol lurking everywhere on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I have a big squidgy soft spot for Brick Lane. I will miss being able to consider it 'my neighbourhood'.

January 23, 2009.


Julien said...

It's not only Mario Kart that makes us so similar, dear Sarah. It's incredible how your depiction of your final days at school matches with my own memories. I can even feel the warm wind in my chest, the kind of wind you have forgotten during months of winter, you know, the kind of wind that tells you summer is coming. It's crazy once again to think a whole hemisphere might have been a mirror for two similar fates.

Because, off course, I understand so well your feelings of nostalgia. I've been moving fourteen times in my life from one place to another and that's true you feel different about everything when the last day has finally arrived (after your first half-dozen of movings, you take the habit to expect the moment of your next move). And that's true, you discover new details until the very last hour.

Oh, and, before I end this (far too long) comment, let me share something else with you. When I first connected to your blog this evening, and after a little "hurray" to celebrate the birth of a new post of yours, I was inspired by its title : Moving. It's the title of a song by my former lover/feminine role model/Empress dowager in the Realm of my Bronze Heart/favourite singer (pick the one you like the best), I mean, Kate Bush. So, before I read your post, I started the song and then I read everything while listening to the song. You might find it match perfectly with your text - just like our memories match.

Here is the link, for your convenience : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn5pxGrPBuI

(Maybe I should also post the lyrics, this comment is already too long and when I have to sin, I like to sin completely)

Sarah said...

There is no such thing as a ‘far too long’ comment in my book, Julien (my book is quite interesting. You should read it some day. One part of it features a lemur and a can of chickpeas, so it’s worth it for that alone!). This is a blog of Proustian Proportions, so long comments are de rigueur. Random pretentious sprinklings of French phrases are also de rigueur, but I guess to you using French words wouldn’t sound pretentious at all…

It is strange to think about how the experiences of people on different sides of the world overlap. And now Ani DiFranco’s ‘Overlap’ has just started playing in my head. She is my Kate Bush, only I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as the Empress Dowager in the Realm of My Bronze Heart (that was my favourite choice from your four options, by the way).

I can’t believe you have moved fourteen times! I have now moved four times, and there are probably going to be plenty more to come…

I hadn’t heard that song before, either. She is a very eccentric lady, isn’t she? Never fear, I know I’m stating the obvious by saying that!

Rebecca said...

Aww, i know the feeling. Where are you moving to?

Sarah said...

Just realised I never answered your question, Rebecca! I have moved to Maida Hill (West London), where I have been having a hell of a time finding a quirky little café to write in. It's pretty much residentionia here...