I have re-entered the depths of an area I will refer to only as the Compton of South London (no, not Peckham). I am walking down the street. A fourteen year old boy is coming towards me pushing a pram (I don’t think the progeny therein is his own – possibly it belongs to the woman behind him – his mother?) and he’s weaving it straight at me, going kamikaze. He thinks it’s funny. I however don’t. I dodge out his way and give him a look. A look I had forgotten I could do but that has nonetheless lost none of its power. Alas it never had the power to turn people to stone or smite them to ash.

He swears at me. I of course call him something unprintable. His mother says nothing. I cannot believe two things. One that kids these days are such little shits in this part of the world and two, that within minutes of re-entry I’m as aggressive and mean as everyone else who lives here. It’s a Darwinian response I tell myself. Kill or be killed.

I go into Boots with my mum and we get elbowed out the way by two nine year olds in school uniform who proceed to plaster themselves with green eyeshadow and pink lip gloss and then steal the testers completely ignoring the fact there are several adults trying to actually choose products for which they will exchange, like, money.

I get in the car and start driving and immediately realize that I shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Especially not having gone back to a stick shift, especially not with jet lag, especially not in South East London. With the moves I’m making – reminiscent of Bali driving – I might get seriously injured in a road rage incident. Half way through overtaking a bus on a residential road I have a moment of clarity and brake hard, pulling in behind it my cheeks burning. I’m driving like a south Londoner again but one that’s been hybridized with a Balinese driver. It’s lethal.

I suddenly long for Bali, for the green and the blues, for a place where the kids smile and wave at strangers and where there’s no such thing as make up (for kids at any rate – there’s sure as hell no Boots but I’m happy to forgo that so as to also avoid having to watch six year olds pout and slather on blusher). I want to live in a country where no one loses their temper or shouts (it’s a hugely uncool and largely unthinkable thing for a Balinese person to do).

I long for the me that smiles and waves at strangers and gives way at stop signs and never swears (well not hardly). Honestly she does exist over there. London Sarah is not half as nice as Bali Sarah. London Sarah is a hard arse bitch. How can you not be here?

God, I say to my mum, why would we move back here? And the thing is she agrees. It’s grim down south.

3 thoughts on “The Bitch is Back

  1. megan says:

    or another perspective from one who has lived in a rice padi for a few years and thought London was the best little blast of polite urban respite from the bewildered gazes of the farmers and frogs…. The Balinese don’t get mad… they get magic! Smile and keep the peace, then run to the priest and cast a little spell on you…. hati hati! But yes, they will sit and stare at you in a traffic jam as you turn your car in circles for no reason with a look of bored curiousity that I reserve for watching Dog the Bounty Hunter.
    Make-up. Have you been to a wedding? The bride AND GROOM slather as much greying greasepaint on as possible, then line, fill and powder it all. Much attention given to they eyebrows with black liner/jiffy marker.
    Maybe there was an emo boy with a pram but he long since fell through a gap in the sidewalk and floated out to the sea on a raft of Aqua bottles. Drink some of that reasonably priced wine for me. Enjoy those crisp sheets (rain has made Mold Speckled The New Black).
    We are the lucky ones. World=Oyster. Variety is what makes it all delicious.

  2. lozza says:

    Sounds like good ‘ole London – it’s a country separate from the rest of the nation and I’d like to add a Camden chapter of teeth knashing – it’s grim here but then again I’ll fight for it – Healthcare and Education – hard one victories of this Sceptered Isle… (wipes a tear away)

  3. trishlorenz says:

    I’m just back in London after 12months away, including a 5 month stint travelling by rail from Australia via Singapore, SE Asia, China, Mongolia and Russia (see http://travelswithanirondonkey.blogspot.com if you’re interested in more). And I’m also finding the whole London thing hard to handle. Noise, hassle, frenetic pace, everyone wearing black (even in August) and a noticeable absence of smiles. No where is perfect (I miss wine, chocolate and fresh bread when I’m in Asia) but someplaces are closer to perfection than others. Sorry London, but after 20 years our relationship is over! (Of course it’s not you, it’s me).

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