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Faltering Back

Author: Sandy Underwood

Creative writing using the first line from Home by Vanessa Haley

It is years since I’ve been here,

*

It’s years since I’ve been here. Got off the train at Finsbury Park which, incidentally, is Krapy Rub Snif backwards; as fitting now as it was back then. Though the spanking new M&S on the corner hints at the gentrification seeping from the centre of London and pushing the poor further from their homes.

I walked through the park like I used to do every day when it wasn’t dark and sufficiently unpopulated to get mugged.

Past the skaters in their concrete bowls nourishing egos with tricks pulled off.

Past the tennis courts where unmatched couples play hit and hope for their allotted, and probably expensive, hour.

Then over the bridge at the top, over the railway line that used to carry me, resignedly, to and from misery on a daily basis.

To the infamous ‘Fully’ or Faltering Fallback which was previously called after someone posh to meet my daughter.

A lot has happened since I last met her in here. For one, I’ve not had a drink since; as it were, under a dormant volcano.

The place is still wonderfully dark inside, usual bar room kitsch with designer old shit and house plants but somehow grubbier, more genuine.

You can, as I too often did, entomb yourself in your own thoughts, tease the genie out of the bottle.

You can enjoy the game, telly or pool table, as a consumer or contributor, until you are ceremoniously kicked out, saved by the bell.

The labyrinth, multi-level outside that stank, as it always did, of cigarettes, the then de rigueur roll-ups now tinged with mint and eucalyptus or strawberry vape. Can you imagine?

The place, on a hot summer eve, to get outside yourself, amongst the cicada chitter chatter of youth and beauty and fleeting confidence.

Again, greened by foliage momentarily making the inner city out of the city and far away.

This was my oasis, my watering hole in, and from, the desert.

Still with the characters, fashionables with their flamboyancy aids, the locals who can no longer be arsed to raise their eyebrows over their drinks, or their voices over the rugby.

And, yes, the booze washing the demons away, the promise of release.

But, and I say this with a half melancholy, saudadian smile, no longer my home.