I’ve moved into a new flat. Finished university, said good-bye to the comfort of my childhood home and moved to character-less Fulham – where people don’t walk, they run and clothes consist only of lycra or floral print. Characterless is cruel, it does have character, just one far removed from Deptford market, Peckham high street and the aromas of piss on the pavement from a Goldsmiths student who couldn’t wait to use the toilet. No, Fulham is different, it smells like a bakery and is green like the country side, the river makes it feel like a sea side town and the people all look the same, as if on entry there was a dress code. I missed the memo, my freed nipple, baggy tracky bottoms, armpit hair and sliders receive side glances – althoughthe glances are fast as they’re running past. Where are they all going? Chained to the fit bit, slave to the scales.
Despite the suburban spine that runs through the streets, I like it. I like that people are too busy running to shout abuse at you in the street, a regular occurrence at my previous address. I like that all the windows are big and that the little boy across the road peeps through the shutters at random intervals throughout the day. I like that sirens are a rarity and I know our neighbours names. More in fact, I know their numbers and we’ve exchanged gifts. Ignorant though it may be I like that it feels as though nothing is happening here. No pandemic – the masks blend in well with the active wear obsession. Though I know it’s foolish – I know the world is creaking at the seams with the mass of injustice, pain and suffering. Inside my new flat I am safe and content. I am a dot in the ocean of a society riddled with angst and sad, sad statistics. Do I feel guilty for finding ways to escape? Often. When I was at home my bubble was far less penetrable. And though I want to shine a light on all social injustice, though I want to have a well informed enflamed opinion on the way the conservative party has dealt with Covid-19, I also want to laugh, stroll through the park and stare at the pretty people trotting at pace. I’m scared of a second wave. I’m scared of far-right protesters. I’m scared of the consequences of living in a borough where everyone is so obsessed with running. I mean, what the fuck?
Covid has forced introspection and I have learnt how important environment can be. How important it is to make the space you have a space you love. A space where you feel safe from the viruses, runners and racists of the world. Our new flat has high ceilings and the walls are the colour of custard. We built flat pack furniture and bonded over screws and bolts. Thank god for patience, thank god for Brad’s drill. Brad lives upstairs. We don’t know him well but, he has a lovely drill. There is no mould on the walls, like there was in my last flat, and the floor is covered in a spongey carpet, one on which you can walk bare foot without feeling cold and a little empty. sparse. There is space in which you could do a headstand, or lie on the floor in exhaustion caused by countless Zoom calls. My plants are thriving. I sleep well in my bed – despite the thoughts circling my head. Though we’re home all day, every day on top of each other, in and out of each other’s space – I have no cabin fever. The light bounces off our antique mirror into my soul. It does, no it really does. The kitchen is separate to the living room, so when you cook something which oozes aroma, it doesn’t cling to the cushions or your clothes. There are fishes on the tiles in the bathroom. I like them, they remind me of the ocean. I miss the ocean. Children are hungry so my longing for the ocean is by the by. I miss my parents but, I forgot how much I missed my independence. How nice it is to dictate the actions of your day, the food that passes your lips and the things you fill your time with. The TV you watch. Not sure my 76 year old father would be as enamoured with I may destrpy you as I am – although he is enjoying ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
When everyone seems to be leaving London, finding a slower pace and stepping back – I felt uneasy about coming back. Unsure as to why we were signing a contract for ludicrous amounts of money a month. But, then we got here. We arrived into a sanctuary that we didn’t know we needed. A chunk of normality. A section of a suburb north of the river which sits in the south. A patch of turf to call our own, with wine in the fridge and hot water in the taps. Living beyond our means to feel some sort of a sense of success. I am yet to find success. Though often getting through the day feels like a great success. One worthy of a medal or an amnesty award? Tolerating the runners obsessed with running deserves an amnesty award. I jest. Digress. We have a fireplace which reminds me of Christmas, reminds me that the seasons change and things will return to ‘normal’ hopefully not normal. A different type of normal. I like Fulham, I love our flat, I miss home but I’m happy here. Wherever you are you can make it home, home isn’t a place is it? It’s a feeling, a collection of belongings, a space filled with memories and energies. It’s a smell. It’s habits and rituals that you only do when you’re here. Yoga in the morning, coffee that’s always black, a walk at lunch to stretch the legs and music tracking the movements of the day. It’s replicating the things that you do at home – sitting on the floor to eat – never going to bed without saying ‘Goodnight, I love you’.
This new normal isn’t normal at all. It’s hard to manoeuvre, it’s strange and it’s challenging. But it’s our challenge, our planet, our people. One race yet so different, so similar, yet so unfamiliar. Do the jogger’s in Fulham know the pain that the world is feeling? I think deep down they do, they must. I think they just know what helps them to cope, what fuels them, what enables them to take two steps forward and avoid one back. I’ve moved into a new flat. I’m thinking all the time about what this means – for my mind, my bank account, my relationships and my position in the world. But then I remember to focus on the custard coloured walls, it’s not that deep, though fo course we know that it is.