My teacher stands behind me and guides my hand as I copy the Mandarin word she has drawn in bold black ink. I follow the lines and shapes slowly and carefully, the black ink flows smoothly from brush to paper, I asked her to show me how to write the word Love, it seems like a series of symbols and rather a palaver for one single word, I ask what the various parts mean, my friend explains, Love in Chinese is not a single word, it is a combination, one part is the character for the heart and another a pictogram for a dwelling place or a home. Mandarin love is not a label, a western amour or liebe or love simply given a name, but instead it is a description, love is the place where the heart dwells.
I left London at the end of March, back then I felt as though the cold and damp of England had penetrated deeply into my bones, all I wanted to do was get as far away as possible, to escape and bake myself in the Sun and to burn away any memory of what it felt like to be cold. This I did, in India, in the desert in Egypt and finally for a month on an Italian Hillside.
Coming back to London was a little of an unknown, how I would feel returning, how I would feel being back in the area that had been home for more than twenty years. My first two days were spent meeting old friends, seeing my son and spending a little time in old haunts. When traveling and meeting people as one does along the way you tend to develop an easily repeated description of yourself to recount, name, where you are from, what you are doing, where you are heading. Mine always included calling home a few square miles of London, from Notting Hill Gate to Kensal Rise, this was where I called home it was where I felt was home. Somewhere along the way, where I cannot remember whilst I continued to call this area home I began to realise that it was beginning to change, sure it was where I had travelled from, but maybe it wasn’t really home any more. Back in London and walking down Portobello Road I ask myself once again if this is home, not in a bricks and mortar kind of way, but in a metaphorical and feeling sense, again I find that now I am unsure. But I am sure that this is a special place, I walk down the road just in front of me are two girls, chattering away, one is blonde and white as a sheet, the other darkest black and has a strong West London accent, opposite shades together, I have breakfast at the Golborne Deli & at the next table a couple are talking in Farsi, I wander along the market and see some of the old characters that I’ve known for years, past the old shops and stalls, the bars & cafes, this is Portobello and I like it very much. Home as the old English saying goes is where the heart is, I haven’t worked out where that is for me just yet, maybe its out there somewhere, let’s see.