A grey Thursday afternoon in November. Ealing, 1:15pm. The high street is busy with people on their lunch breaks. Having just been to Nationwide, I cross the road mouthing the words to the music on my ipod and passing lots of people. A man in his late twenties is walking past Specsavers, heading in my direction. He’s striding purposefully and clearly focused on me; I don’t know what he’s going to do. Seconds later he’s standing in front of me and the following, somewhat surreal, conversation takes place.
MAN: I’ve got a long, hard cock for you.
ME (raised eyebrows, simultaneously shocked and irritated, but unexpectedly composed. I tilt my head slightly to the side and smile): And yet I’d prefer you to have a good job and speak properly.
MAN (pauses, taken aback): …. Fuck you.
ME (still smiling): Well, no … you won’t. That’s the point. (I walk off and don’t look back).
Central line platform, Holland Park tube. 11:20pm. Ten hours have passed, filled with the completion of chores and dinner with a friend. I walk onto the platform and see that the only people waiting for a train are myself, a middle-aged man on a seat further ahead, and a man in his early thirties who is just near me. The man near me looks up and speaks.
MAN (smiling): Hello.
ME (return the smile): Hello.
MAN (raises his voice as I’m continuing to walk down the platform): Hey! Wank me off!
Ugh. I roll my eyes, but say nothing and keep walking – my feistiness of the morning has disappeared with the day.
So that’s the city of London bidding me farewell in its own charming way. It’s confirming that I’ve made the right decision to leave. Don’t get me wrong, in the past week I’ve also experienced the many positives of the city – I’ve been to the play “Jerusalem”, the musical “Rock of Ages”, had a dignified afternoon tea and been out for many dinners. No one’s ever short of entertainment here, but a different lifestyle is beckoning. Soon the theatre, pubs and restaurants will be replaced with horse riding, cycling and cafes. The grime of the tube will be replaced by the dirt of the muddy, snake ridden rivers. The tension of keeping a lookout for thieves will be replaced by the tension of keeping a lookout for spiders. Evenings of Sky+ viewing will be replaced by evenings of Scrabble with my mother. My pace of life is about to dramatically change.