I was getting all misty eyed as I raised the blind and looked out over the rolling green fields and hills below. We identified rivers, cities, towns, forests and, as we got lower to the ground and circled over London, neighbourhoods, stadiums, landmarks and even the pub at the end of the road we would be staying in that first night.
Twenty two months. I hadnt ever intended such a big gap between a big move away and coming back to the UK, where most of my family and many of my friends live, but things happened, and intentions clashed against stubbornnesses and almost two years passed before visiting.
So by the time we landed, nostalgia, excitement and the weight of expectation were almost overwhelming my usual desire to punch everyone Id just spent nine hours in too-close-proximity to and the need to get as much personal space as physically possible.
Looking out at the beautiful day as we gently lowered ourselves down onto London, I felt pangs of anxiety. What if I had made a mistake giving up the career I was building here in order to take a chance at living somewhere else? What if, really, this is not only my physical birthplace but my natural, real and only home?
Im not sure if I actually expected a chorus of dancing chimney sweeps and gap-toothed-but-smiling-flower-girls to greet me warmheartedly by name as I walked through the arrivals hall, but, sadly, they werent on shift (or were on lunch when we arrived).
Instead, we were met by a lovely minicab driver called Ash – the first person who has ever held a piece of cardboard with my name written on it, and who talked to us just enough to be friendly but not enough to be one of those minicab drivers.
But then, four minutes out of the arrival gate and getting to the overwhelmed carpark lifts, we met our first, loud, vocal welcome to the country:
The resident Heathrow Arrivals Gate Racist, who, silver of hair, polyester of trouser and puce of face, shouted full pelt at a besuited man of British/Caribbean heritage that seemed to work for one of the airlines and had made some unmeaning error trying to get in the lift with him: YOU JUST RAHN OVAH MAH FAHKIN FOOT. I dont CARE wevver you KNOW you did or NOT. I DONT KNOW WHAT YOU EVEN FINK YOURE DOING ERE. YOU SHOULD FAHKIN APOLOGISE. THATS THE ENGLISH WAY
Now, I cant deny that we say sorry for a lot of things in this country whether theyre our fault or not, I cant help but think this wasnt his point. He seemed to be saying that the man, rather than deny hed bumped into him, should just apologise, because he was not English. Trust me, this was his tone.
I stood, my mouth flapping on the other side of the lift. All the way back to my sisters house in the minicab I was coming up with good retorts. Oh really, sir? Apologising is the English way? Or is being a charmless bigot the English way? was about the tone of it, though they got cleverer and more DorothyParkeresque as the journey went on.
But I admit that when we passed him in the carpark I just trod on the heel of his flip flops and mumbled that he was an objectionable cunt (one of the most satisfyingly damning things to speak out loud, I challenge anyone to deny it) because frankly, I hadnt the enthusiasm to build a full argument. Id just got off a ten-hour flight.
Id like to thank him, though, for helping decide my future residency plans for the next few years.
If hes the welcome wagon the conservative government have arranged for incoming flights, then yes, immigration may go down. Punching, however, may go up.
[I have had other, more affectionate experiences since, I promise. More of which soon]