Change is both exciting and unsettling. On an impulse, I disembarked at Gloucester Road tube-station. Gloucester road is close to where I lived as a child. I was convinced a subconcious sense of direction would lead me straight to the house we lived in. What street was it on again? It didn’t matter. I’d find it.
On exiting the station, I did not recognize a thing. I walked up Gloucester road, annoyed by the groups of tourists. Crossed Cromwell road. Then it struck me: Stanford road. That was the name of the street. Stanford road? Nobody knew. They knew Hyde Park though. I also instantly remembered to ask for a book called A-Z. Apparently, the memory works associatively.
I had been walking the wrong way and so I headed back, took a side-street. Emperor’s Place. Grenville. Names that sounded vaguely familiar yet I felt like I had never been there before. That Holiday Inn was new, I was sure of that. So was the David Lloyd. Where was the ice-cream store? And the corner sweet shop named Frog Hollow? What about the American themed restaurant where we’d celebrate birthdays. With that wooden Indian and a big wagon wheel and real booths and drinks called Shirley Temple?
I consulted yet another A-Z. Wrong side. I went into even more side-streets. Still, I felt nothing. And so I turned back, to Gloucester road. I stepped into a breakfast place run by Pakistanis. It was full, noisy and dirty. The bangers and chips came in big, affordable portions. I had a scone and felt like the tourist I am.
Memory is an unreliable thing. Good to visit your old haunts all the same, as long as it doesn’t matter that you didn’t find what you remembered.