I started german lessons this week in a vague attempt to get to grips with the language in advance of various adventures coming up this summer. Which is fairly ambitious. I don’t yet know that knowing how to order a kaffee mit zucker is going to help me converse with guests at a family wedding (“So, Lewishambles, what do you think of the bride’s dress?” “Erm… I’d like it with sugar, please?”) but I figure everyone has to start somewhere. Anyway, we were getting down to business, introducing ourselves to one another in broken comedy german accents, when I managed to force out that ich vohne in Lewisham. So did my Classmate! How long had I lived there? Switching to english (it was the first lesson, give me a break!), I said breezily “oh, not long, only… a year.”
Only a year. One year.
It’s been a year since I loaded up Poppa Lewishamble’s car on a grey February morning and left my shitty flat (and even shitter state of mind) in Walthamstow and fled to Landlord’s little flat on the Lee High Road. I’d never even been to Lewisham before – all I had was an address and google maps and instructions that the keys were “a little sticky in the lock” (cue much frantic scrabbling when they didn’t work on the first go. I very nearly died of a coronary which would not have been an auspicious way to start a new life). Looking back, I must have been NUTS. Momma L and I wandered around the area and she put on her very best “I’m absolutely not worried about you” voice when she told me I was going to be JUST FINE HERE. In LEWEYHAM. (It’s a real vote of confidence when your mum forgets where you live while you’re still there.)
One year since I unpacked my possessions into unfamiliar furniture and was a bit sad that it didn’t take that long. One year since I opened the doors to the garden and surprised a local fox shitting on the patio. One year since I thought “blimey those roadworks at the roundabout are a bit much”* And one year since Momma L and I walked past a rather beautiful building on the Lee High Road with a discreet little “for sale” sign pertaining to one of the flats. Momma L said I should look into it and I told her she was crazy, I couldn’t possibly afford something that nice.
Reader, I completed on it. In that year, I’ve become one of those desperately sad individuals who reads the Lewisham Life emails I get sent and wants to go to community book fairs and thinks I should meet my MP and give her my thoughts on the redevelopment of Leegate shopping centre. I’ve seen the Parakeets of South London in my own garden and bemoaned hipsterisation even though I have a horrible feeling that I’m one of them. I’ve mocked Blackheath Farmer’s market and eaten a Jamaican patty from Lewisham Market. I’ve taken the night bus and seen things I cannot now unsee. I’ve seen inexplicable things for sale in the Lewisham TK Maxx:
All this because of the kindness of complete strangers and the serendipity of having a friend of a friend with a tiny little flat she let me stay in while I sorted my head and my heart out and decided to give this whole “being a grownup” business a second chance. And at the beating heart of it all is a funny little town-within-a-bigger-town with a personality to take on all comers (yeah, I’m talking about you, CATFORD) and a distinct voice and feel of its own. Whether you’re taking in the silence of a pre-dawn run on Blackheath, or getting up to your elbows in pahnd-a-boll veg at the market, or just sitting on the grass in Manor Park gardens letting the wind whip about you, you feel the whole-ness of this place wrap around you like a little blanket and you realise that there really are places in this town where you’re not a stranger, where you’re just where you are at just the right time. It’s a feeling you call “home” and it’s a rather lovely one to have.
Thanks for a great year, Lewisham.
Lots of love
*A year later and we’re maybe half-way through the reconstruction of the roundabout into a triangle-bout. I’d take pictures but to be honest a forest of cones and angry cars is not the soothing reflective tone I wanted to strike in this post. I get all of my lewisham travel news from the EXCELLENT Seizure blog which has a great assessment of the situation: https://se13ure.wordpress.com/category/lewisham-gateway/