Ben Ward

Cold Comfort



I expect that it would be easier to write about my continuing exile in London if it were raining. I mean that it would be much easier to write if I weren’t having quite so much fun. The written word loves misery, but I don’t have any to offer.

It’s obvious that I miss my friends in San Francisco. Therein live some of the nicest people I’ve ever known, and I miss them a lot. But the fact is that a different set of the nicest people I know live here in London, and living amongst them for an extended time is a surprise privilege.

I’ve been back in England now for six weeks; more than twice the time I’d intended. Every year since I migrated I travel home at Christmas. I see my family, I get to catch up with these friends, and I get to enjoy something else that San Francisco will never offer: winter.

I rather like the cold. I don’t like being cold, but I find great comfort in being warm whilst the world is cold around me. Scarves and woollen jumpers and thick pea coats and open fires. Watching your breath in the air while feeling snug all at the same time.

London even granted me the immense pleasure of snow last week. We watched it fall, stomped around in it, threw it at one another walking Regents Canal. Then we ran from mischievous children atop the adjacent flats who threw it down upon us with alarming accuracy.

We cosied up in pubs like The North Pole, and played Settlers of Catan in dim light, listening to a local jazz singer, and slowly worked down the burgeoning list of of London’s darkest independent stout and porter brews.

I doubt it’s that London has gotten dramatically more interesting in the past four years—although that may have happened—it’s that these friends of mine kept digging under the surface while I’ll was gone. Now when I visit I get pulled dragged the last checkpoint to enjoy everything they’ve found since. It’s like David kept playing our original save game when I left, and now gives me an anachronic summary of what happened since I left off (“After the mini-boss on level five we unlocked a sourdough bakery under London Fields, and all of the beer in our inventory was brewed in the same postcode.”)

How lucky am I that while stuck in an information vacuum left by the shambolic method of the USCIS, refreshing a page to read back my “pending” status every few days, I can be here. Comfortable, surrounded by friends, casually playing my life.

London is cold. I’m warm.

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