At Victoria Station


I don’t get on with Victoria Station. It’s not the floundering tourists or the one-track-minded commuters that I can’t take.  Nor the noise and the dirt and the tedium of waiting for delayed or crammed trains.  I can even put up with the constantly interrupted conversation. 

It is, instead, the smell of food and the onslaught of food vendors that I can’t take. Even after 9 years of distance.

Stations were a playground for my bulimia.

Yesterday, I passed through Victoria station on a work trip.  The circumstances were very different –I was the very professional (suit-clad-blackberry-armed-Radley-bagged) and normal (M and S salad with a bottle of fruit water and a skinny Starbucks to go) Melissa – but the memories sent me straight back.

I didn’t venture to the toilets but I could smell them in the air. Immediately. A distinctive memory of station soap (always the same) and stale air that used to cling to my clothes and signal the end of the process.   The start? Food shops, like flash photographs that zoomed towards me in a strangely filmic manner.  This is where I used to buy xxx, and here is where I used to sit and eat yyyy, and this is where I used to come for zzzz. 

Desperation, panic, hunger, impatience, desire, relief, pain.

In stations you are blissfully anonymous.  There is no guilt (whose bathroom am I ruining?); no attachment (I’ll go home when it’s over); no shame (no one knows my name).

Food is fast and familiar: twenty pounds can go along way if you know what you’re doing. 

Or if you’ve well and truly pressed the self destruct button.

In my mind, bulimia will always be linked to stations. To key haunts where, seemingly beyond my control, I found myself playing magic chairs in the food court and sitting furtively behind a magazine, gorging myself to a point at which it was nearly impossible to stagger to the bathroom. 

In my mind, stations will immediately evoke a stale smell and a strange heady mix of relief and despair. They will always make me remember how destructive and powerful bulimia can be.


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