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Here’s something I could never have imagined saying until I stepped off the Heathrow Express at Paddington forty-eight hours ago: blimey, London’s quiet.

I don’t mean it was quiet for London; I mean the typical noise level in London, the constant buzz of traffic on the Euston Road punctuated by sirens, seems to me now an agreeable, soft, ambient hum. Does this mean I actually went completely crazy in my cabin on a container ship? No. It just means I’ve been in Delhi and Kolkata for a couple of weeks.

London, which had always seemed a bit too loud and fast for me before I went on my voyage, is like a sleepy Sunday afternoon in India’s major cities. The traffic in Kolkata is so bad cab drivers turn off their engines when they get into a queue at a junction, knowing they’re going to be there for some time. In Delhi, the buses try to never stop, knowing that if they do they might not get going again, and passengers throw themselves towards the moving open doors and hope for the best. Autorickhsaws and mopeds outnumber four-wheeled traffic a hundred to one, even when you include four-footed traffic – the oxen with their brightly painted horns pulling carts – among the latter. And talking of horns – everyone drives with them! The gaily painted trucks have no rear view mirrors, so all have the words “horn please!” emblazoned across their bumpers.

A game of cricket. Because the street wasn’t quite chaotic enough anyway.

India is relentless, an assault on all the senses that was only magnified by the fact that I came to it after months at sea. I love it, absolutely adore it, but you wouldn’t go to urban India for a holiday. It’s not restful. You need a holiday to recover from it.

I left London hoping to think my way through my antipathy towards the city I’ve called home for the last 16 years, sure that I’d find it unbearable when I returned, determined to sell up immediately and buy a cottage somewhere I could open the curtains and see the sea every morning. The cottage still seems like a nice idea, and the sea is simply something I now have to make more room for in my life, but after India, London feels manageable again, which is an unlooked for bonus. And when Liz and I reacquainted ourselves with each other over a couple of pints of Fuller’s ESB at the pub in Paddington Station, I realised it’s not quite time for people to start dragging out Dr Johnson’s most oft-quoted phrase just yet. It’s good to be home.