These are pears that have fallen from the tree, next door to where we are staying in Chiswick, west London. It is a temporary stop-gap and we are house sitting and cat sitting a rather somnolent cross-eyed cat, an amazing shade of fawn. In fact everything in the house is on the fawn continuum so sometimes it’s hard to spot her. She is also the same colour as the envelopes that arrive from Hounslow council. Anyway, we have been enjoying the pears, that are apparently diseased. At the end of the street is a mulberry tree, which has just been cut back but earlier in the week the pavement was festooned with them, little car crashes all over the place, splats of pink, ruby spillages. We were keen to walk around them so as not to tramp mulberry stains through the house and spoil the general atmosphere of hotel calm. Which at the moment suits our mood, when normally we would be cradling the fruit in our hands and covering ourselves in the never-ever vanishing juice. Because when could you ever resist a mulberry? Never.
Although I have been posting from England regularly since I started blogging, it was as an LA resident. I would always eventually board a plane back to LA, full up on Bach’s Rescue Remedy pastilles and sodden with days of fraught tears. This time, however, I am writing as a resident of England, because we have moved from LA and are now back on English soil. My blog posts will lack, I imagine, some of the emotional freight they once had – nostalgia for crisps and autumn, the love of a good walk etc – and I will be a bit more, well, down to earth, maybe, but hopefully not prosaic. We will be returning to LA regularly so I’m sure I’ll have some interesting tales to tell from immigration, and the warm and caring LA drivers and those women with faces that look as if they’re made of brown candle wax.
In the meantime, I have turned the beam of my affection to those things that are difficult to find here – the type of sun and light in LA, which is almost a hard blue, all angles, and then driving, the thing that tormented me more than anything else; okay, I miss the grid system in LA. I miss grids. I miss driving in a straight line for hours at a time with no pedestrians, no people to ruin it, finding Say You Love Me on the CD player with my fingers (Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits, track 11) tracing it like Braille in case the driver in front suddenly decided not to bother with indicating. And of course I miss our neighbours, who cordially and kindly took my cakes, sometimes as many as two a day (when things were really bad) and who became our friends, and then finally our family. And all the lovely people who scooped us up and fed us and listened to my various diatribes (“Cats need to be free to express their natural instincts!” “I’m European, I refuse to wear a bra”).
Sometimes I just miss the right turn out of the garage, the car tipping down the hill into the first sun of the morning, like a massive fruit in the sky, knowing it wouldn’t change, and being endlessly surprised by it. Here I’m not so much surprised as bemused by the amount of grown men in tailored suits eating Wotsits. Wealth, that’s a surprise, particularly here in London – it makes me want to go up to the chestnut-haired glossy mares drinking lattes in Chiswick House and ask how they did it, and could I have a look at their bank statements? I don’t remember London ever being so untouchably rich (reading John Lanchester on the subject helps).
So in that sense, I’m a foreigner, but in every other way, I’m home. ‘Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence’, Philip Larkin wrote. So no LA, no mad people, no Jessica Biel or citrus to beguile you with, but plenty of pears, cats, mulberries, unpacking and, when in London, extortion. It’ll be an interesting few months, thank you for following me.