Junction in Coyoacán, Mexico City
It was about $500 cheaper to fly British Airways from Cancún to London than from Mexico City to London, even when you factor in the extra domestic flights between Mexico City and Cancún. Even though I should’ve guessed, I wasn’t really expecting the flight to be so full of Brits. I’ve never before been to a foreign place where British people go on their holidays. Never been to Spain or the Greek islands or whatever, places where one would expect to be surrounded by my countrymen. And in Mexico, I rarely come across British people who aren’t at least a little bit like me: vaguely arty, intellectually curious, backpack-y types. During my four hour layover at Cancún International airport, I saw some of those, but mostly sun worshipping folk. This can’t help but sound snobby, but there were lots of people – and when I say people, I mean men – who looked like they would happily kick my head in. Lobster-coloured skin, ill-advised tattoos, football jerseys of shitty teams, pasty flabby skin around the skull with sad, angry eyes.
I wore a suit for my flight because, well, I wanted to feel like an adult. This seemed like a good decision when I was in my room in Mexico City. It seemed like a terrible decision when I was stood outside the airport terminal in Cancún smoking. And sweating. I am clearly British. Nobody in a Mexican airport is going to mistake me for a local, so to the handful of British tourists I glanced eye contact with, I was one of them, but untanned and not wearing a t-shirt and shorts and flip flops.
Things watched: Identity Theft which was, like Due Date, just a crappy version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I saw about half of The Mosquito Coast (fell asleep around the time the religious dude came to visit Harrison Ford’s village). Started watching that Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand film, but it seemed terrible after ten minutes so I abandoned it in favour of Jack Reacher, which I enjoyed more than I assumed I would (and really, it’s the sort of film that’s perfect for watching on a plane: a movie I would never ever ever consider seeing in the cinema or renting or even, for that matter, downloading illegally). And as we came close to the British Isles, I noticed Crossfire Hurricane, the Rolling Stones documentary was there. The sky was getting light outside and we were getting close to Gatwick, so by the time the captain told us to not use headphones and stuff, I’d got as far as the Exile on Main St. era. Must make an effort to watch the rest of the film…
Coming back to the United Kingdom is a weird thing in my head. It is home, clearly. I am British. A friend of mine in D.F. recently commented, negatively, that I was “so European sometimes.” But I have found, over the last five years, that I half dread coming back. There’s a part of me that very much looks forward to it, but another part that is incredibly nervous. It is home, thus it has expectations in my head. Expectations it may fail to live up to. Or, possibly worse, expectations that will be exceeded. Last time I was back, at Christmas 2011, I had a wonderful time and was very sad to leave.
What seem like too romantic views of my home country kicked in very quickly. As the plane flew across the south coast, and the watery-milky clouds became fewer, there was the sight of all those green fields. Such a green and pleasant land. A greenness that is only really noticeable when you live in a orange and dusty part of the world. Cars driving on the, what I have come to believe since living the last third of my life outside of the UK, wrong side of the road.
The miserable fucker at the passport control immigration desk told me to stand in front of her desk, not at the side. I wonder if her job description is “be a humourless cunt to citizens of the same country”? Would it kill them to be, y’know, at least a tiny bit nice; to say “welcome home”? Within five minutes of being on home soil, I had already muttered to myself, “this is fucking bullshit.” Immediately after passing though passport control, there are display boards telling passengers which carousel their baggage will be at. A paperjam of people all looking at the name of their flight’s origin with WAIT next to it. It took 30 minutes for CANCUN WAIT to turn to CANCUN 2.
A friend picked me up from Gatwick and we came into the centre of town. Through Croydon, Thornton Heath, Streatham, Brixton… my old “manor,” really. I lived in south London for four years. It’s changed but it hasn’t changed. There are more money-lending places, more betting shops, more coffee places, but the faces are still the same.
I’m typing these words sat in a pub, the Green Man, in central London on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve been awake for over 24 hours now. The obvious things: it looks like a pub, not a bar. There aren’t meseros hovering around my every need. A pint of beer is nearly five fucking pounds. But the music is low in volume and there’s no television showing whatever football game is happening somewhere in the world. The same friend who thinks I’m “so European sometimes,” also thinks I’m an alcoholic. I don’t think that is the case: I just like drinking. And even though this pub is a vaguely fancy pub, it’s incredibly nice to have a pint glass in front of me and to hear English accents chatting away at the tables around me.
But this post will have to wait until later to be posted. This pub has free wifi, but you have to give them your mobile phone number to get some sort of code to give you access. They tell you it’s for security reasons. Not at all cos they want your data, oh no.
Overheard at the next table, no context: it was just a burger. No bun, no lettuce, no tahmaaah’er, no nuffink, just MEAT.