I’ve been away from Walthamstow this week on a work visit to Abu Dhabi. I flew out there early last Saturday morning from Heathrow and came home on Friday. Honestly speaking I wasn’t really looking forward to the trip. I realise that I am very lucky to be able to travel with work, but the thought of spending six days 4’000 miles away from home just wasn’t doing it for me. Making the trek from Walthamstow to Heathrow early on the Saturday morning did nothing to improve to my mood. As the cab drove through the dark empty streets of E17 I started making a list of all the things I would miss about being away from home, my other half, the dog, visits to the Chequers, running on the marsh, cups of tea. Was I being over dramatic? yes of course I was, it was just six days away not six months. The main worry I had about visiting Abu Dhabi was the different culture out there. I’ve visited the city before and it’s fair to say that I struggled a little bit the last time. Being a happily and now legally married gay man, I find it difficult visiting countries where being gay is illegal. There are of course many other well-known cultural differences between Abu Dhabi and London. I don’t want to go in to those differences here because as I realised during my trip, sometimes it’s easier to focus on the things that make us different, than it is to find the things that make us the same.
Whilst out for a run after work on Tuesday, I saw something that reminded me of home, and reminded me that people aren’t really all that different. What I saw was a group of young men playing cricket in a car park. I stopped and watched them for a while, reminded of the lads that play cricket in the car park on South Grove. I took a photo of a South Grove car park cricket game during the summer, and the scene in Abu Dhabi was almost identical, the presence of palm trees being the only noticeable difference. The world suddenly felt much smaller, and home felt that little bit closer. A simple game of cricket bridging a 4’000 mile gap.
When I got back home to Walthamstow, and the excited dog finally stopped welcoming me back, I focused on topping up my tea levels and re Walthamstowing my self. I fed my soul with a run on the mighty marsh, and fed my body with the king of beans on toast at cafe 56 on St James Street. After a wander on the market and a few pints in the Chequers I was soon feeling well and truly back at home. I think the game of car park cricket will stay with me long after the memory of this trip has faded though. At a time when it would be easy to think that the world is going to hell in a hand cart, remembering this connection between unrelated people and places is reassuring. All over the planet, ordinary people are just getting on with ordinary things. I’m always writing about the things that make Walthamstow different to other places. This game of car park cricket has reminded me why sometimes it’s equally as important to think about those things that make everywhere and everyone the same.