I have a favourite time of the day.
On a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening, it is a long way home. I walk from Parliament across Westminster Bridge, weaving my way in between the many people stopping to take a picture of Big Ben. Its a pacey walk where I hurl myself along to make the 17:07 train train from Waterloo to Chiswick. It has its loveliness though as I walk across the River Thames and take in the lights of London shimmering along the water, a fresh breeze off the river whipping itself through my hair and pockets of noise drifting around me into the dense belly of a thousand year old city.
The Palace of Westminster is lit up behind me, a golden mirage of Gothic gorgeousness, ahead- the London Eye blinks lazily as it imperceptibly rotates its occupants round to a new vista and the London Aquarium is bejeweled with hundreds of polka-dot lights. I like this walk, it takes me right through the heart of London, reminding me one of the greatest cities in the world is laid out around me and that every crook and cranny of it is there to be discovered and explored. That there are corners under the vastness of its skies to make mine. That a city can become yours as you become part of it.
Onto the 17:07.Pulling out of Waterloo, I feel like I’m an ant making my busy way through the buttress roots of the ancient giants of London. Buildings sprawl and spew, the train tack deep within the rib cage of the city. Then its out into the leafiness of Chiswick. There I take tutoring sessions for an hour or two, followed by a walk to the bus stop, a bus ride and then a tube ride to Ealing.
As I said its a long way home on these middays of the week.But then as I get off the tube at Ealing, awaits my favourite time of the week.
My eyes are searching the crowds for the pair that are waiting for me. They are bemused, mine are lighting up. Through the hundreds of footfalls our feet find a path and fall instep. A pair joined by hands dodging the hundreds of people trying to go in a hundred different directions out of the Broadway.
Then the noise and the bodies filter out and its just us, steadily climbing the quiet and dark hill home. In this ten minute walk we unload our day to each other, unpick what the day has brought to our attention and talk about everything under the sun. Sometimes we are softly quiet, content to just walk together. The pretence of the day is over, we can be and say what we really think. There is vast well of comfort in that. As we walk up the hill, the rest of whatever has happened falls behind us, left somewhere in the frantic business at the bottom of the hill. The hardness of the day softened by the sharing of words with each other.
There is so much in the singular fact that day-after-day, I can rely on him to be there. That it will never be too much to walk in the cold night to meet me and walk me home so that I’m safe.
Give me this any day, over a grand over-the-top romantic gesture. Give me this real and sincere love that is built on the small and simple things we do for each other, to make the life of the one we love, easier and better. This Christmas, I am thankful that I am cared for, that I share in a simple kind of love that is entirely ours, understood entirely by us and really, delightfully inexplicable to anybody else.
Nobody else will ever know how it feels to be me or he, as we walk up the hill to our home together, and in the comfort of each other shake off the rest of the world.
It will always be my favourite time of the day.