There is this song that I can’t seem to get out of my head. By Australian band The Waifs, it goes “I miss you like my left arm that’s been lost in a war. Today I dream of home and not of London anymore. I’m in London still…” I don’t live in London, I never have, but I am in New York and today, as I make my way through the dark streets, the bitterly cold wind stinging my face, those words, sung in that unmistakeable Australian strine, play over and over in my head – I’m in London still, I’m in London still…
I jostle my way onto an overcrowded bus, cramming in during the peak hour rush home, my clearly pregnant body not enough to motivate anyone to give up their hard-won seat. Gripping onto a pole as the bus lurches through the streets, I close my eyes and hearing those words, I’m in London still, I dream of home.
I can see it so clearly. I am sitting on the balcony of my apartment in Sydney’s lower north shore, a stones throw from the city, yet a little pocket of tranquillity. Sipping a glass of crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, I look down on our tree-lined street awash with colour – brilliant lavender from the jacaranda trees, pinks and reds from the blooming roses and azaleas, and vivid green from the tropical palms – and soak up the sights and sounds of summer.
A light ocean breeze, bringing with it the sweet fragrances of jasmine and eucalyptus, tempers the searing heat. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the harbour in the distance glistens a brilliant sapphire blue. I can hear children laughing as they ride their bikes up and down the street and the warbling of a magpie in the distance. The sounds of cricket on the tv drift out from the living room and my husband cheers as Australia gets another batsman out. Cheeky sulphur-crested cockatoos squawk noisily as they spin around on the power lines, while a pair of rainbow lorikeets splash around in the birdbath on our balcony. The greatest worry I have is whether to go for an afternoon swim or pour myself another glass of wine.
Suddenly, I am jolted forward as the bus slams on its breaks and I realise I am not in Sydney, but still in New York. Gone are the sounds of Australian summer, replaced by horns blaring and the bus driver yelling. Noticing that I am at my stop, I pull on my big winter hood and brace myself for the cold walk home. With my head down to battle against the wind tunnel that is 14th street, I step over rubbish and around the homeless people, wondering where they will spend the night, while the words I’m in London still continue on repeat.
Sometimes I can’t imagine how I will ever leave this city. Its vibrancy, its beating heart, is intoxicating. It can feel like the centre of the universe, making even Sydney seem like a country town. But inevitably the homesickness hits. It can strike at anytime – after a bad day, while hearing a song at the supermarket, or for no reason at all while brushing your teeth. Today is one of those days where the overwhelming sense of longing for home takes over my entire being. A tear rolls down my cheek and I can’t tell if I am crying or if it is from the bitter cold, but I do know that today I dream of home and not of New York anymore.