It’s a brilliant day here in the south of England. Only wisps of clouds, and outside the train window the channel’s a sequined blue. Yesterday the wind was out and brought with it the chill of the north, but it has died down today and I suspect fleshy sunbathers will be opportunistically descending on the beaches of Newquay. Kelly is sleeping in the next seat, her head resting on the table, next to a water bottle of Italian wine that I have been sipping as I watch row houses and patchwork fields alternate with worn down trailers and industrial detritus. We’re heading to Paris after a few days in Cornwall. Pendennis castle was impressive, a 16th century coastal fortress that withstood conflicts for 4 centuries before finally being retired from military service in the 1950’s. Newquay was quaint, a low-quay surf town festooned with British holiday-makers.
But as pleasant as the English coast was, I’m excited to be moving. Unfortunately though the rural peninsulas may be quite different from the city, it’s still the same country and thus holds reminders of London, and for me London has been ruined. Not the people (who were lovely) or the weather (which was lovely) or even the food (which was perfectly edible and occasionally quite good), but now the word London stinks of failure and I suspect it will for some time. Though Beijing may actually stink, of organic waste and inorganic pollutants that redden the eyes and foul the nose, it will always hold a much rosier place in my psyche.
So it’s time to be moving on. And I think Paris is a necessary stop. People ask me what I want to do there: possibly the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower? Both necessary and inspiring, I’m sure. But what I really want to do is saunter, along the boulevards, then away from hordes. Sit at a simple café with a caraf, eat a subsidized lunch, and watch the city breath. For two weeks I’ve been organized, itineraried, herded, and handled. It’s time to wander.