thoughtwisps One commit at a time


I thought I’d cry.

I thought I’d cry when I looked at my_apartment of four years - now the apartment - emptied from my belongings, cleaned and ready for the next tenants to move in. But instead there was nothing apart from the incessant hum of thousands of mental to-do lists. The apartment yet another item, cleaned and checked off.

I thought it would happen when the airport car came and we drove through Tower Hamlets, into the Limehouse Link and through the City, through Westminster and St. James and further out into the West. Surely, I was bound to be hit with the stomach-gouging feeling of sorrow for something that I am about to lose. But as I looked out at the streets that I had come to know as my home - a home I thought I’d surely stay in for a very long time, as long as a lifetime perhaps - and went through the rolodex of memories attached to them, I felt nothing.

If I have to be honest and here, on these pages, I can perhaps afford that, I’d have to say that at some point in the past year home had ceased being a home. It’s hard to know exactly when this happened. That moment in time is buried somewhere under the vicious dialogue about borders, immigration, ending free movement, the Dover-Calais crossing and the ridiculous gaffes surrounding it, blockchain as a solution for the borderless Irish border and the endless debates in Parliament that I had dutifully followed until the very end.

The sense of an ending, to borrow Julian Barnes, had probably been there since that morning on July 2016 when I rushed from my apartment to my workplace at Canary Wharf at 6am to make sure that the system I had developed would remain stable for what would surely be a turbulent day, but the realisation that yes, here it is, the end, did not set in until sometime in October 2018. It was too improbable to really take hold in my naively optimistic mind until then.

Folks I had known from my early days on the London tech scene were all slowly making plans to relocate somewhere on continental Europe or the US. In early November I went to my first infosec conference and explored Berlin, but the thought of relocating to a city where I knew no one and spoke not a single word of German was hard to digest. I’d done relocations to English-speaking countries before and those had been hard enough. So Berlin was struck off the list.

I toyed with the idea of Paris. My French would be sufficient, barely so, but surely with practice it would improve. However, one glance at the rental market was enough to convince me that at this time, relocation to another almost-London would not be a good idea.

So I came back to the north.

Things are different here. Not bad. Just different. Things sound different. The wailing of police sirens is replaced by the grating sound of the snow tractor cleaning off the snowdusted streets for early commuters. Instead of the click-clack of heels and smart business shoes, you hear the steady crunch of sturdy winter boots leaving footprints in a powder snow.

Perhaps that is the worst part. Memoryscapes of London are still part of the muscle memory and every morning is an unpleasant reminder that those places one automatically reaches for have been left behind.

I thought I’d cry in London, but I ended up crying in Stockholm.

Insomnia strikes and I wander through the unfamiliar streets and parks at night, climb up a hill and look at carpet of millions of lights sparkling in the windows of the residents. I used look at the lights in London too, but not like this, with a sense of sadness for the place I’ve abruptly left, but with a sense of wonder about all those lives behind those windows. How miraculous it was to co-exist in a city of millions, together yet alone, tied to a place that could be both magical and terrible at once!