Thursday, 25 August 2011

Walking Home

It is dark, but not cold. It’s warm enough that I can walk home with just a light t-shirt and not feel the chill. The streets, so familiar by day, seem strange and unknown in the dark. The pavements are patched up with tarmac that gleams under the streetlights and its inhabitants are almost entirely unisex, the women having gone indoors long before dusk. Only a trio of girls whose mothers believe they are at a friend’s house and a lady out drinking with her man and his mates buck the trend. There is an aroma of fine spices and the faint sound of Asian music. Shops that were weathered and empty this morning are now lit up and filled with people in their best finery, feasting and celebrating. I am not in some far-off country but in Harehills, Leeds, a neighbourhood homing representatives of almost any other nation you could name.

I’m walking home. I notice the strangeness, feel a little alien on the streets. I enjoy the freedom of walking alone but there’s a slight thrill, a sense of danger and I’m glad my mother believes that I am at a friend’s house too. This may be “my” country, but these are not my streets. Not because I’m white; some of those out tonight have British ancestors far out-dating my own; but because I’m green. I’m new. It’s still strange to me. I pass two men standing in a bus stop in long kurta robes. I turn off the main road and meet the smell of alcohol as a group sit in their yard drinking beer. A bunch of noisy youths cross in front of me and finally it comes into view, and then I am there: home. The gate squeaks, the door clatters open and closed again and the strangeness is gone, locked outside on a warm, dark night.

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