This year Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year – fell in the same week as Australia Day, the combination of which has caused me to wonder whether it is time to think about heading home.
Blue Monday is the Monday of the last full week in January, apparently the combination of the grey weather, high debt, long time until next Christmas, freshness of failed New Year’s resolutions, low motivation and a need to take action spurs people to book their next trip. Blue Monday was defined and promoted by Sky Travel in an attempt to sell holidays, but like every good lie it is plausible enough to inspire belief. Even the sunniest optimist would be muted by the cold, grey London January, and in particular I have noticed a fog of discontent permeating the antipodean population.
A Kiwi friend rumbled her discontent on facebook unleashing an avalanche of comments from her friends and family back home; ‘it’s warm, it’s sunny, come home, we’re here, we miss you’. One or two ex-Londoners pipe up that they wish they were still here and current Londoners urge her to think of the travel opportunities but these comments are buried in the torrent of well wishers from back home.
Just two short days after Blue Monday it was Australia Day. I looked at facebook over breakfast and it was alive with talk of sun, sea, sand, steak, salads, sheilas, beer, BBQs, blokes, cricket and a day off. I pulled on my green and gold and tried to think warm thoughts as I struggled into my winter coat, pulled on my hat and wound a scarf around my neck. I shoved a brolly into my handbag and couldn’t help but wonder ‘what am I doing here?’.
Unexpectedly, London responds as if I had spoken the thought aloud. I am amazed to see an almost empty tube pull into the station to take me to work. Today I am not crammed into a hot and malodorous carriage and jolted back and forth, I am seated, and my adjacent commuter even gives me the armrest. I enjoy the smooth, efficient ride to work and think how I really haven’t missed owning a car.
Australia fights back via my iPod, which shuffles to ‘I Still Call Australia Home’. It’s a stirring, patriotic song, bringing to mind images of children clad in white standing in dramatic international locations. However it doesn’t exactly call me home, in fact it encourages more travel, hence its use by Qantas to get more “bums on seats” of international flights. Wherever I live, I can still call Australia home, with the added bonus of not calling Australia home for taxation purposes.
Undeterred, my iPod shuffles to The Waifs’ ‘London Still’. The mournful Australian accent describing retail therapy at Camden market being totally ineffective against homesickness saddens me, but it’s the line ‘I wonder what I’m missing, I think of songs I’ve never heard’that really strikes a chord with me on Australia Day, when Triple J’s hottest 100 is blasting from radios across Oz. When people talk for years to come of the 2011 Brisbane floods, my version of the shared experience is based on online news sites, emails, facebook photos and comments. I lost nothing and I wasn’t there to help with the clean-up. What I am missing is shared experiences; at a national level, the election of the first female Prime Minister; at a state level, the flooding; and at an individual level, birthday parties, engagements, weddings, not to mention the minutiae of everyday life that is deemed not worthy of mentioning to a friend who is on the other side of the world.
For now I am trading travel opportunities for shared experiences, but maybe I can have a little of both. A trio of Australian wedding invitations arrived this week, and I’ve resolved to attend at least one of them, to share the experience in person and to catch up with all the family and friends from back home. I am elated at this thought until my iPod shuffles to The Ramones ‘I wanna be sedated’, which always reminds me just how long and horrible the kangaroo route flight is. ‘Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours to go, I wanna be sedated.’