While we were still in Egypt, friends and family in the UK were saying how beautiful the autumn colours were. It was hard to imagine the yellows, oranges and golden-browns from the pastel colours of the Sinai. And anyway, I thought the English autumn would be over by the time we got back. But this year it felt like we were treated to a delightfully long season of slowly falling leaves, blue skies, and colours that were both bright and soft. It was a joy to be back in time to immerse myself in this, to stride through the crisp leaves gathered on the ground, to hear the sound of the dying yet alive leaves underneath my feet, to watch in awe as they floated slowly to the earth before my eyes.
People asked if it was difficult to adjust to the cold but this felt like a joy too: the sharp, fresh air, the lower temperatures, the need to wrap up in hats, scarves and gloves. Rather than better or worse than the hot days and warm evenings of Egypt, Palestine, Greece and Turkey, the UK climate has just felt deliciously different.
Spending time with friends and family has been a delight too. Enjoying old friendships and close family ties, frequenting familiar haunts, revisiting favourite spots with favourite people, all this has more than made up for the five week hiatus in travel and discovery of new places. I’ve called this piece ‘Back Home…’ but in fact it hasn’t quite been ‘back home’ as my flat is out of bounds, rented out for twelve months, so we’ve been staying with various friends and family which has meant spending a different kind of time with people: less time-limited, more casual, more intimate.
It hasn’t all been sweetness and light. Moving around a lot over the five weeks we’ve been back has proved to be a different kind of journeying to the travel we experienced abroad. Staying in London and walking around the neighbourhood where my flat is has felt both good and, occasionally, not so easy. I’ve felt a real sense of liberation at not having the responsibility of managing a home and all that that entails. At the same time, I’ve felt some dislocation at not being able to retreat to a den that was all ‘mine’, surrounded by material comforts that can offer some ballast against the small ripples as well as the larger shock waves of life.
This is exactly what I chose when thinking about this year away, though, a moving away from the familiar and a moving towards to the lesser known, without fetters to hold me down, to keep me in place, to contain my presumed identity. There is no place more likely to propel me into this unknown that I can think of than India, where we are headed next. Soon Kim and I will be on the ‘plane to New Delhi. We have plans to cross the border to Nepal to do some trekking, which will present plenty of beauty and challenge of its own. But we’ll also be travelling around India for a few weeks, on trains, on buses, on foot, seeing sights, hearing sounds, inhaling smells that will fill the senses in all sorts of ways, enriching, not always comfortable, but always welcome.