As the motorway ribbon unwound in front of him, Toby wondered about the last twenty four hours and the city he’d left four years ago but still felt peculiarly attached to.  It had associations of student days and the faltering beginnings of a career, the first years of parent-free independence.  Waking in the affluent suburb a short walk from the centre, its peacefulness struck him: that quiet.  He had lived in this part of town for a while too, had enjoyed it, but like everywhere, eventually grown bored and restless.  Though a capital city of reasonable, if not enormous size, its local feel always surprised him on returning.  The way he could walk through the town and see a number of familiar faces: ones he knew and would stop and speak to, others who were only ever familiar faces, but who were almost belligerently still there, permanent seeming fixtures. There was a homely comfort to be found in the localness, despite that grating anti-Englishness which pervaded so much.  Earlier that lunchtime, Toby and his friend had idly walked through town, fending off hungover drink-weariness after a night on the town.  High streets awash with lunching office staff, shoppers and a plentiful supply of predatory clipboard clutchers, they had stopped and spoken to no fewer than three old acquaintances, friends, forgotten people.  This sort of thing didn’t happen in London. Toby remembered his reasons for leaving: seeking change and difference after being there too long.  Few of his friends shared the ideology; they were happy enough to stay put, so had.  That lunchtime had been gloriously sundrenched and the city looked good; a gigantic makeover of a city centrepiece had recently been completed, injecting a creative, continental feel.  It was difficult not to be impressed by the city he used to consider his home.  In a strange way, he still did.  Because of the memories it invoked?  Because this was still where he had lived the longest?  Or merely because of the general rich remembrance of details after a long time away; homage.  That travel agent where we booked our trip, that bar where we met those nutters, that shop where you bought that dodgy shirt for that party.    Why did he live in London if he didn’t need to?  It was a question a few people had asked him over recent months.  One which he had no answer to.  If it’s expensive, which it is, and you’re not that happy there, which you’re not… then..  Have you now paid you’re London dues?  Done it for a while as young people do, so now you can return, back out, go somewhere else to slowly wither and shrivel?  Or might you be energised with the possibility of newness, different places, an engine to go and visit new regions?  But are you remembering the city too fondly, nostalgically, and forgetting the shit? Toby asked himself as he overtook a Mercedes.  You knew more people, technically had more friends, but were essentially just as bored and lonely there, if you remember.  Don’t be seduced into going back, returning to the cosy familiarity because you happened to see a few people you know one sunny lunchtime, he warned himself.  Press on.  But is that what you’re doing?  The other side of his brain counter argued with himself.  Pressing On?  He dabbed the brake pedal gently, increasing the space between his car and the van in front.  Really?  Sitting in that room all day everyday not doing a great deal, that’s pressing on is it?  Oh fuck off, he told himself, indicating left to leave the motorway.


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