Saturday, 20 May 2017
On 6 April, the general strike in Buenos Aires delayed our departure by 'a day'. So it was 8.30 am on 8 April that Eva arrived to collect the keys to our apartment in Defensa. Nico waited by his taxi at the door. The sun shone on a glittering San Telmo. Suitcases bumped down six flights of stairs. The large wrought iron door clanged as we crossed the broken flags. And away, threading the morning traffic, the taxi windows wide open to admit the breeze bearing last early autumn scents of the barrio, then heading to the raised carriageway of Au 25 de Mayo that would zip us out to Ezeize and beyond, over a night Atlantic, to a Heathrow dawn.
Farewells are bitter-sweet. The intrinsic sadness of leaving friends and familiarity is tempered by melancholy. The sweep of the second hand pushes time and urges the moment of parting. Thoughts and feelings heighten, and we grasp for final memories. There remains but a glance back - before the present unveils a changing picture of new challenges.
London is unusually bright and warm. My brother Peter meets us at Heathrow, smiles and escorts us to his Range Rover. Within minutes the approaching city looks clean and ordered; pavements spread in uninterrupted tidiness. White Portland stone and tinted glass sparkle. Daffodils nod crinkling heads as early spring passes, and blossom bursts in parks and gardens.
After four months in Buenos Aires, this scene is familiar; but unfamiliar. Only after our train departure from Kings Cross does a new reality dawn. Subdued, whether by tiredness or mood, we sit in silence as the last fragments of London give way to English countryside. We race through stations too quickly to gain a sense of place. But soon, the announcement "Darlington, next station stop....." and feel relief that nearly thirty hours of travel is ending. Our eyes sting as we prepare to focus for the last short walk home, and as we emerge into a strange, half-recognised world.
One of the huge benefits of travel is the possibility of a change of perspective. When we return we must beware that we don't re-enter life's ellipse, regressing daily to the place that we left.
Today, mid May Darlington skies are grey. The weather vane tells of a sharp wind that blows north east. Liver spots of rain mark chilled paving.
Its time to plan our return to San Telmo.....