As we are all aware, the UK is a remarkably small place. Many people wherever you have been living while in the far away will confirm this, given the fact that as soon as you mention you are from there, they will say OH! I have a friend from London! Do you know Simon?! (even if you originally mentioned you were from a corner of the UK far far away from London).
But returning to the UK after a while – especially, like me, after a matter of a couple of years – you start to wonder whether maybe, you DO know Simon after all (actually, having said that, if you work in the tech industry or hang around with as many geeks as I do, you will almost certainly know Simon, as most of the people in that industry are called that. That or Paul. And when I say that I mean Simon. Not That).
In fact, you start to wonder whether you know everybody, because although when you left you might remember not knowing that many people at all, on returning, youll recognise people. You cant think where you know them from – work? Bus routes? Pubs? Friend of a friend? Secret Ex-husband?Newsagent? Celebrity? All at once? – but somehow, everyone is suddenly maddeningly familiar.
For the first few days back in the country I kept wanting to rush up to people and say Hello!?! What are YOU doing here?! And where do I know you from, again? – but luckily I am not so Californian as all that, already. Because of course I didnt know them. Yet I couldnt work out why my brain thought I did.
So it was a relief when My Beloved turned around and asked whether I was getting as freaked out by how many people seemed familiar as he was. Theyre not actually all your friends: they just look British.
They just, I slowly realised as the number of them grew (and the number of people I know stayed humbly small), look British. Having spent a lot of time around people whose features, clothing, carriage and demeanor all reflect something other – whether American, or whatever – I think there was just something inherently British about people that was familiar enough that it would start ringing bells. And it was nothing to do with race – whatever that aforementioned pillock in the lift at Heathrow airport might say – just little clues about the facial structure, or haircut, or clothing choices or walk or mannerism that add up to someone your brain thinks you should know.
Either that or I know a fuck of a lot more people than I previously thought I did.
Go on: ask me if I know your friend Simon from London.