When I was nine or ten my maternal grandparents promised me a trip to London. On a train that decoupled at Plymouth. On a promise to see Father Christmas at Selfridges and stay overnight in hotel. To do a U turn on oxford street in a black cab.
I was superbly excited, the youngest of three siblings, the only girl, this felt like Narnia had come to me. At Christmas.
I have hugely vivid memories of the trip. Having two adults to myself. Being listened to and engaged in grown up conversation. Father Christmas hidden away, amongst the perfumes, huge displays and shimmering display cases.
The hotel. The lesson that the man opening the door, Fredrick, with his rich accent, was as important as the hotel manager, with his perfectly clipped accent, who my grandfather knew.
And the introduction to my grandfather’s love of architecture. St. Paul’s. Then All Souls Langham Place…both Sir Christopher Wren designs. But as his granddaughter, I fell in love with the funny triangle of a building. “The BBC” I was told. “I’d like to work there”, I said.
When I was 18 I moved to London. To work for the BBC in the funny triangle of a building. I went from trainee to TV producer, from London to Manchester in a decade.
I returned to London, yesterday, after a lifetime of visiting so regularly my husband sometimes wonders if I secretly have a second home there (in my dreams), I came back.
Six months after my last train ride. Six months of no London. Six months of missing so many things, six months of being grateful for health, family, work and my garden. Six months of longing for a black cab, to be alone and to see the metropolis.
I put on my best shoes for you, my favourite mulberry bag, my gorgeous jacket made to fit me, I put on make up, painted my nails. I took out cash for the cabbies. I put masks, hand sanitizer and more masks in my bag.
When I left the house, I said to John, I’m nervous. I love her but what if she’s not ready for me, or I’m not ready to see her yet. What if I don’t love her when I get there? “Come home again,” said my ever practical husband.
Bristol Parkway Station is a sea of calm. Assurance. Reassurance. I was early. I am never early for a train, totally a ‘Just in Time’ traveller. I wanted the time to reflect.
The train arrived and I cried. Freedom. My own life. My professional life. Shoes. Bag. Make up. Pod cast. No one asked a question for 72 minutes
And then she revealed herself in all her glory, quieter, calmer, but magnificent.
My cab conversations were as important as ever. I took cash (saving the cabbie 4% and a week of waiting for my fare).
I met nine of best and brightest buttons about to enter the world of PR and comms, sharing with us, in a safe and socially distanced way, their phenomenal thinking, after six weeks on the Taylor Bennett Foundation programme. My heart was fit to burst.
I fell hook line and sinker back in love with her.
And for me, I saw a gimpse of future last night, a more relaxed capital. A more humane capital. More caring.
And I am still in love. She’s magnificent. She needs me. I need her. And we all need a Capital. Without one, we lose all the punctuation in our lives.