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No one to greet us at Heathrow. We’d arrived from Bombay, via Prague and Beirut, my two sisters and I. A relative who had come to pick up a cousin travelling with us gave us a lift. We drove past dark, cramped buildings to an address in Wimbledon where two-storeyed houses huddled. Lord, I said, have we crossed the Arabian Sea to live in a place like this? But it was only the relative’s house. We saw Kensington Palace Gardens, the Albert Hall and the statue of Boudicca at Hyde Park Corner from the car window as we drove to Park Lane.
Our father and oldest sister hadn’t received our cable. They weren’t expecting us till June. They lived in a penthouse, with a sixth-floor view of parkland and hardly enough room for all. Our sister, who’d been in London for nearly two years and worked for the Evening Standard, knew the city centre well. She marched us around its bridges and alleys, stopping to buy us ices when we looked tired. We weren’t used to long walks in the heat. I was overdressed for the warm London weather. (My mother had said it rained all the time, and made me pack tweed jackets and woollen trousers.) My hair flopped over my forehead and was cut short behind; my blue linen shirt flapped around me in the breeze: all wrong. My sister bought me a purple shirt that clung to my bony torso.
May 1970. I was fifteen years and six weeks old.
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