My visitors have departed. The airbeds have been deflated. The flat suddenly seems remarkably spacious, and strangely quiet. There’s a new mark on the back of the kitchen door, recording the current height of my niece. She’s grown 34 centimetres since the last visit 5 years ago. 34 more centimetres and she’ll have outgrown me. We haven’t yet taken down her handwritten signs adorning other doors in the flat: ‘Knock on this door and wait for someone to answer. Please.’ ‘Do not open this door.’ We open doors without knocking, prop them open, enter rooms without tripping over bedding, sleep better back in our own bed. And feel torn. I feel torn. There’s the life I’ve made here in London, the love I’ve found here; the strong friendships, all the cultural stimuli, and the connection, yes, I feel to this city, the place I chose to move to. And there’s the pull of family ties, that I fought against, struggled with, then after many years slowly learnt to appreciate; my long-suffering, patient family in Melbourne, another city I’m intrinsically connected to, affectionate towards, but when I go ‘home’ there, I’m a visitor.
It’s easier once I know my family have landed safely and are back on solid ground. Just on the other side of the world. And Nick and I adjust back into our curious, not very routine ways, that suit the two of us. I catch up a bit on my journal (a never-ending task, until that final full stop), dip into the latest LRB, read some poetry when I’m on the tube, mull over what fiction to embark on next (Will Self’s Umbrella, probably). And we discuss writing, an endless thread between us. It’s time to refocus. Writing, which I have to be engaged with, somehow, to be true to myself (pardon the psychobabble). Writing, which I could do anywhere in the world, but at the moment, for the foreseeable future, I am writing in London.