Last week, for what was possibly the last time in my life, I passed through Manor Park station in East London, near where I grew up.
If you’ve only ever been a tourist in London, you’ve probably never heard of Manor Park, and indeed there is no reason you should have: there is nothing of touristic value there. It’s a slightly grotty rail station in a residential suburb of London, which doesn’t even have anything like the Centaman Entrance Control barriers in place to regulate passengers getting on and off here. I can now describe the station as being just east of Stratford where the 2012 Olympic Games were held, knowing that there is at least a small chance for non-Londoners to be able to put it on a map.
From the age of 11 to 18 I took the hour (or longer) train ride from there every school day to go to my secondary school out in Essex, a place with an unfortunate reputation for somewhat racist and unintelligent people in tacky high heels.
Beyond the age of 18, I continued to use the station regularly, to get to and from university and then work, and to visit my family home and friends in the area.
Leaving from there last week, knowing that I may now have been there for the last time in my life (since my mother will be moving to a house in the countryside after living near Manor Park station for 26 years) was a strange experience.
To a visitor, it’s just a normal East London suburban train station, a bit dirty, and not the kind of place you would want to hang around after midnight, but it’s one of those places that holds many memories for me.
It’s where I made some of my oldest friends; people who I’d share that train ride to Essex with and it’s where I came out as gay for the first time to more than one of them.
It’s also where I had my first kiss with my first boyfriend, which wasn’t very good, and I remember the staircase we were standing in smelled faintly of urine. Nonetheless, a special place, in its own way.
This visit to London has made me really take note of the places Zab and I are giving up as we redesign our lives as digital nomads. While I’m not necessarily going to miss these places exactly, it has made me reflect on their significance to me and has reminded me of both the good and bad memories I have for various places in the city where I grew up.
So smell you later, Manor Park station. It’s been nice knowing you.