After 68 days in the UK, I have returned to Lyon. It was always going to happen so I can’t understand why I’m so surprised to be back.
As I trudged up Rue Pasteur from the station last week with my bags, it seemed a total mystery as to how I had ended up here again. Was I tricked? Drugged? Bundled into a slow moving car. Thrown onto a train with a ticket reading Lyon one way. But whoever was to blame, ‘I was back.’
I said this aloud three times as I stopped to rest in Place Gichard, such was the weight of my three bags and guitar. I could have taken a taxi or a tram, but as I had four hours to kill, it seemed pointless to ride when I could walk to the agreed meeting point at Pont Guillotiere.
I had planned to stay with a friend for the time being and was to meet her later near the river before heading out for drinks. Reacquaint myself with the city. Plus the wait would give me a chance to take it all in again: the calm Rhone snaking north towards the park; the Fourvière still menacing on the hill; the bumper to bumper traffic lining every street as though permanently on parade.
While I knew everything would be the same, I wanted something to be different. A new bridge across the river. A mass felling of the London Planes along the boulevards. A different brand of people. But nothing changes in ten weeks. Not even the seasons.
And this was welcome. Hot sun resting on my face as I looked out across the river towards the Presqu’ile. Blue river, hot sun and a cold beer. ‘I’m back,’ I cried out again, providing the perfect excuse for a passing Frenchman to scowl and mutter something cruel back at me.
The thought of another ten months of teaching was buried in the moment. My head firmly stuck in a ten foot sand dune. I had jumped into quicksand and would stay there until July. When the water washes over the city, just leave me here on the wall in the hot sun and I’ll die happy.
That was a week last Wednesday. Today is Thursday and I was right about the water. The city must have sensed me.
‘He’s back, L’Anglais. Turn on the taps. Full power!’
Yesterday evening sitting in the German bar in Croix Rousse watching the rain wash away everything in existence, I thought, there can be no going back now. Lyon and all of France will become sea once again and I won’t have to teach tomorrow. But I was wrong. Nothing ever stops EDF – Groupe 4 from turning up. Three minutes to the Apocalypse and they would be there. Exercise books and pump-action pencils in hand.
‘How are you today?’
‘Fine Phil, fine. And you?’
But in truth I feel better than I did at the corresponding date last year, when I thought everything I had ever worked for over the past twenty years was for nothing. I had finally succumbed to TEFL and that was it. Admittedly, I still feel the same, but having kept the same job for more than a year, it feels like there is something to work on. A foundation of sorts. It’s sandy and lacks cement or stones, but for the time being it will withstand a choppy sea.
So it’s good to be back. And again the purpose of what you are reading is to put into words my thoughts and dreams as I wander the streets of Lyon over the following year. I hope you can stay with me once again.