“Lon-DON!” yelps a five-year-old from the back seat of the coach. He has mirrored my own enthusiastic thought, as blocks suddenly start to crowd in on one another. I feel like I am coming home. Slices of existence are caught through strips of lit windows. I am like a TV channel-hopper watching scenes shuffle past. London is alive, and I am gladly alive to notice. Hoardings and fly-posters jostle for attention: hip-hop or chip shop? airline or hairline? I search the Thames for my favourite bridge. The gateway to Battersea Park, Albert Bridge, appears painted by rich Devonshire cream; its two stretched glassy webs of light are ever drawn skywards.
It’s Sunday morning. My sisters in singing drift in from various places until we are ten. Breakfast is pancakes smothered in treacle and peanut butter. I imagine angels would breakfast on such ambrosia.
We luxuriate in chatting, but settle to singing in due course. The hours dissolve as we practise Sri Chinmoy’s new English compositions. Shiny new songs bring such fresh energy. I feel poised in the divine elegance of an Indian sari. All needs, wants and requirements fade as I merge with the circle of sound. Life itself now seems purely constructed of simplicity and sweetness. I feel no separation from my nine treasured friends. I love each of them so dearly I feel they are almost aspects of myself.
The window invites a tree of autumn flames to play a harmony with the scarlet curtains. In a line of pristine Oriental faces, a stem of orchids forks the sky.
A sumptuous roast is followed by the all-important teapot. We lounge about, hopping from one topic to another: rain to Russian history; movies to Mongolian geography; Ayurveda to I.T. to I.Q. The talk mingles more and more with laughter as we delight in company. I haven’t laughed for so long in so long! I laugh so hard I am girthed by a vice and breathing momentarily loses its charm. A glimpse of composure is soon given to another seizure of hilarity, and another, until the afternoon begins to draw its shades.
Walking through the terraces I marvel at the malleable matriarch England has become. London is her heart, and shows it most: Poland meets Pakistan; Jamaica meets Japan; Turkey meets Torquay. Diversity seems a strong adhesive to keep this city whole.
I look through the platforms to find my train, but stop to drink in the familiar names: Surbiton, Streatham, Strawberry Hill, Dulwich, Dagenham East. I feel like Agatha Christie as I board a decrepit train at Clapham Junction. Still with its mysterious wooden compartments, pull-down windows, and handles on the outside, it clatters through a grimy maze.
I am loth to leave this non-stop festival of the senses: London.