It was a blustery day and I thought the wind would clean sweep me off the street. The changing of seasons was no longer a future notion, it was nipping at our heels. Winter had, almost, arrived. I pulled my coat tighter around my shivering frame and wished I’d had the good sense to put on all the clothes I owned before leaving the flat earlier that morning.
To combat the chill creeping into my bones, I knew I needed to take shelter somewhere, anywhere. But of course, when you’re in utter desperate need of just one bloody coffee chain, just one! not even a stupid Starbucks is anywhere nearby. Unwilling, or more accurately, unable, to part with more money than the cost of a single hot beverage, huddling within the warmth of a proper restaurant was out of the equation as was a visiting a book/clothing/shoe store. Looking at stuff you can’t afford when you’re so cold it hurts is actually a very specific form of torture I wanted to save myself from.
And so, what is the next best thing, you wonder? Obviously, it’s visiting a bank.
So I blustered in to the Lloyds branch looming in front of me and prayed there would be long queues, few cashiers and just general mayhem so I could thaw out properly before being turned back out onto the wintry streets of London.
Naturally, there were two customers in the branch, both being served. Plus, the information desk was free and the smiling woman manning the desk was already asking how she could help before I’d even shut the door behind me. With a competence I’ve rarely experienced during my time in London, the woman had taken my details, booked me in for an appointment and printed out my confirmation letter before turning to help the wind-swept man behind me.
With a deep breath, I headed back into the cold but it didn’t feel nearly so bad now that I was one step closer to having a UK bank account. (Although as soon as I caught sight of a Caffè Nero, I ran inside for a warming latte.)
Cut to a few days later, and after a pleasant thirty minutes with Irish Gavin, I had a Lloyds bank account and a feeling of validation I had yet to experience since my arrival at Heathrow 122 days previous.
A few days later still, my bankcard arrived in the post.
And then…things got weird.
(Sidebar: in order to open my bank account, I had to use my Greek passport. The spelling of my name on my Greek passport is a little different to the way it’s spelt on my Australian passport. It’s a difference of three letters.)
I looked at my brand new bankcard and the name looking back at me looked odd. As I’ve mentioned, it’s only a difference of three letters, but seeing it written on an everyday item, like a bankcard, was jarring. It was as if the card belonged to a different person.
And then I felt it.
A small but definite rip.
A rip within myself that I know will only grow the longer I stay in London. Because that’s what happens when your head and your heart belong to two different places. You become two different people. I know I’m different here because my everyday has changed from what it was in Melbourne. London offers the chance of new and different possibilities and I revel in the fact I can explore these options everyday. However, Melbourne is my first home, my true love. It’s a wonderful city that offers comfort and familiarity. It also just happens to be where my family and oldest friends live.
The promise of difficult decisions rests on my horizon. I will have to choose a permanent home eventually, but how I will make that choice baffles me whenever I allow myself a momentary second to consider it.
But such difficult decisions are not for today.
Today, I’m going to use my bankcard and buy myself a giant latte. Actually, no. Today I’m going to buy myself a flat white and raise my cup to that fair Australian city, the city of my birth, fabulous, wonderful Melbourne.