London, May 2016.
The hottest spring ever–up to 32 degrees. The sun was literally setting the city on fire. And the people.
I had just moved to a new house in North London: a two-room semi-studio apartment, narrow and long. Practically an ex garage. Yay! I had finally my own place and indeed couldn’t wait to decorate it with lights, posters, furniture and random stuff, my handprint to make it look like myself. Well, in fact, I hoped it possibly didn’t.. unless I could see a better picture of me at the time, which was obviously not going to happen.
The huge empty white wall in front of the couch inspired me to fill it with something I knew would make most of my nights: a giant TV. My parents – God bless them from his heights – bought me a 46-inch TV as a present for the new house. They knew I’d love it! So step by step, the house began to look more like MY place, my refuge, my home base, my home. That’s the kind of feeling one needs to feel when living abroad, far from family, friends, and all the things you’ve always known better.
Next step was – of course – celebration. It seems to be a matter of good luck when you do. Therefore I invited over my colleagues – my teammates, my crew, my friends, all in one; the people I would enjoy celebrating it with. 6 different countries, 6 different languages, 7 people (including me): Maximiliano and Maria (Catalonia and Spain), Lazaros (a German-born Austrian-raised Greek guy), Beatriz (Brazil), Colin (France), Mary-Jean (England), myself (well…Italy). Oh yeah that was a melting pot!
We came all the way east from Uxbridge, which seemed to be a whole different world: a one hour and half journey plus a 25 min walk under the boiling afternoon sun. The guys might have wanted me dead for that.
The night was super fun – unfortunately Mary-Jean couldn’t make it.
We ordered some extra large super fat pizzas from Pizza Hut – jeez I should be ashamed for that! – and beer after beer made us happy through the night. Tequila shots went along with the background music played on Spotify via my brand new TV (yes, I’m very proud of my TV).
And while our chats and talks were deepening the strong friendship we already had, I told them about the Lithuanian girl I was dating and the invitation to the barbecue at her friends’ house I received.
Now to set you straight, I don’t really feel comfortable with staying among people that I don’t know at all, so I had declined the sweet offer in the first place.
The guys though had a different opinion. They started with their “you’re so complicated”, “take it easy”, “do you actually wish to go?”, and stuff, to make up my mind. Lazaros was in fact more direct: “Jim, what’s the problem?! Is it for free? Or you’re supposed to pay for something?!” What an ass!
Then with a brave dancing move worthy of a retired but filthy Michael Jackson, he said: “You shall go and make quite an entrance. Is it for free? You moonwalk in! You have to pay? You moonwalk out!”
Thus, the day after I went.
If any of you has ever seen hot weather in London, well, consider you’ve had an experience. I was literally melting! Why did I wear a pair jeans? What went wrong while dressing up?
Shoreditch was incredible that day, and so was she. Few steps before the corner with Brick Lane we stopped to pick some beverages and chips, and I thought I’d buy a bottle of wine for the hosts as a thank you present for welcoming an unknown guest into their house. The barbecue was taking place on the building rooftop and the sight from up there was breathtaking! The city was bright, clear, open to the admiration of its viewers.
One of the hosts was actually Italian, from Naples like myself, so he would definitely appreciate the wine I chose. “Well done Jim”, I thought.
So I shyly approached him while barbecuing and handed over the bottle of wine along with my thank-you’s. Being told by the guy that I didn’t need to do that cause I’m from Naples, a fellow citizen i.e. a brother, and that I would always be super welcome there, was a priceless reaction. And his well-known accent…
In both these moments, the empathy and the warm hospitality shortened all the long distances and turned those common happenings into a unique space.
London, May 2016.
No matter where you are, what you do, what language you speak.
That felt like home. That was my homeland.