For 20 years, my parents co-owned a flat just off Sloane Square in London. As a boarding school student, I would spend half term breaks here, and when I was at university, my sister, best friend and I spent alternate summers using the flat as home base and visiting different cities in Western Europe.
It was very sad news when my parents decided to sell their share to my British foster father, but good to know it is still "in the family," so to speak, and may be available for use if a visit coincides with there being no tenant in residence.
Since then, my parents have been staying in the area still on their UK visits, since Sloane Square is very much our home on that side of the world. This trip, I walked by the old flat nostalgically and was glad to see that, like the rest of London over the past 12 years, much had remained the same, although there were very obvious things that had changed.
I mourned the absence of post offices and high street bookshops, which appeared to have been replaced by ubiquitous Patisserie Valeries. Even the book department at Selfridges, once a little piece of heaven on earth for me, was shrunken and modernised and now utterly bereft of charm. The Puffin bookshop at Covent Garden had gone altogther, though its neighbours remained the same.
For the first time in my memory, there were empty shopfronts in central London commercial areas, and very few supermarkets left on the high street, but Marks & Spencer food shops now appeared adjacent to nearly every large Tube station.
The best change was that the former military barracks on the King's Road, which we would walk past daily, had become a set of shops, cafes, and home to the Saatchi Gallery. It was at a lovely restaurant next to this gallery that I caught up with friends I had not seen in 21 years.
At home, Big A came down with the flu midway through the week, but Little A managed wonderfully in my absence, since my dad took him out trick or treating or just to swim at their house. We would chat via Facetime, or rather, I would watch as Little A ran around and jumped around.
In eight days, I managed to squeeze in six theatre performances. The new shows did not have the magic of the old ones, but it was wonderful to see the talent and the full audiences at every one.
All in all, an amazing break for me. I look forward to the next visit, whether it be five, ten, or another twelve years from now. And perhaps one day Big A, Little A and I can visit this wonderful city together.