Wednesday, 5 January 2011

On London

I got the wrong train today; a mistake for which I was rewarded with a 25 minute wait at a station in an industrial estate in east London. Too tired to read, I had nothing to do but wait. I'd never been to this station before, but I had plenty of time to get acquainted with it as I paced up and down the lonely, rain-soaked platform. I discovered that the time on platform one was two minutes faster than on platform 2 (evidently the station straddles a time zone - who knew?).

After reading a few timetables, walking around and staring at my shoes for a while, I decided to clear out my phone; deleting numbers for cab companies I'll never use, month old text messages and crappy photos. As I was culling the 'Notes' folder I found the beginnings of a post I started months ago while waiting for a friend, but never finished (I think I'd probably had a fair bit to drink, as it sounds pretentious - you've been warned):

I lean against a crumbling Roman wall; to my left a Norman castle. In the distance straight ahead the newest addition to the city's skyline stretches towards the clouds. Cranes flank it, piling floor upon floor; a tower of concrete, glass and steel.

The city I call home. My office, my playground. It panders to my every need like a doting mother, and demands and frustrates like a petulant child. It's old and new all at once; parts still sparkle while others fall into decay.

It's odd that I should find this now, sitting here. After months of it lying forgotten and unread among lists of songs I need to download, ideas for Christmas presents and the code I need to get into my office, it seems incredibly apt. No matter how often I call London my home, I know only a tiny portion of the city. The routes I travel every day I've memorised like the back of my hand (except, it would seem, the train route), but I'll never walk all of its streets, see all it has to offer, know it in its entirety. I'm like a river, following the same course day after day (with the odd tributary leading to pubs, shops and friend's houses) but I've barely scratched the surface. I deviate one stop from the way I normally go, and I'm lost, surprised and transported very far from 'home'.

So thank you, London, for reminding me who's boss, for keeping things interesting. I've much to learn, and even more to discover.


  1. I love when you discover new things about where you live.

    Great post!

  2. Funny time to find that little post! London is pretty crazy, though. It's so huge, and the streets make little sense. I understand that feeling you have, though, when you're almost one with the city. It's magical.

  3. I think you should try to be a tourist in your own city this year! Do things you've never done! Visit parts you never thought you would!

    Also, I might be going to Bath (as I've stated before) but a stop in London wouldn't be out of the question!

  4. I agree with Allison, I love being a tourist in my own city and discovering new hidden treasures!

  5. Discovering hidden gems (or even the places that are less than gem-like) is my favorite thing about living in a big city. It was my favorite thing to do in London, by far. Sigh, I miss that place.

  6. I agree with Allison too.

    Personally, I want to visit London. That will be 2nd on my list of things to do WHEN I win the lottery.

    First is buy Johnny Depp.

    Wait. We were planning on winning the lottery when...? I kinda forgot.

  7. There's no-where else in the world like London. When I arrived there at the start of a five year stretch I felt like I'd found my city. Five years later I crawled away on my hands and knees, but I still love her. Whenever I visit it's like hooking up with an old friend. You worry you might have nothing to talk about, but you realise it's like no time's gone by at all. I love my life here in Madrid but I do miss her sometimes.

  8. PS - happy new year to you too! xxx

  9. I know what you mean. My friends and I always make sure we go to one new museum, bar and restaurant each month. And every now and then we'll take it turns to plan a tourist day.

    I would totally recommend it :)

  10. Haha sounds like me..I have lived in my city for well my whole life and apart from my school route I knew nothing.That changed after I got into college. It's a whole lot of fun!
    Beautiful post :)

  11. I don't know what else to say but, whoa dude. You're hella poetic when you're drunk. (Don't puke on my dad and we can party down anytime you want)

  12. I <3 the idea of being a tourist in your own city! I think I might take up on that and do it in my pesky small town.. Right after I do it in yours.

    *two months* yeyy!!!

  13. Holy crap, man. I wish I could write like that after drinking. It doesn't seem pretentious to me at all.

    This reminds me of the time I got lost in my own town when I was 14--this is a town significantly smaller then London or any city and very suburban. I was terrified and had to have a friend come and "rescue" me. When I saw her coming toward me on the street she was carrying a map.

  14. I don't have anything meaningful to contribute but that was a great post. :)

  15. Great post man! I stumbled upon your blog and quite like it. Are you a Fulham, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea or West Ham fan?!

  16. @ Tabs - thanks! I just wish I'd planned to discover new things, rather than just getting lost. It would have been more impressive.

    @ theTsaritsa - you're completely right, the streets in London make no sense at all. But I like that, how higgledy-piggledy it is. I swear that's a word. I hope I didn't just make it up.

    @ Allison - Yes! If you fly into London let me know! Just don't rely on me for travel advice...

    @ Kisekae - I think I might have to make that a New Year's Resolution...

    @ Adria - Don't sigh! You've got a whole new city to discover now haven't you.

    @ Gnetch - crap, I forgot. I think it's this year though, so we can enjoy the money before the end of the world, remember? Bring Johnny with you when you come to London.

    @ Corta Inglesa - I think I may be approaching the 'crawled away on hands and knees' part. I don't know. I imagine Madrid is quite hectic, too?

    @ London Girl - I have started this. Last weekend I went to the Natural History Museum. I've been before, but it's my favourite, so I thought I'd start with an easy one. And I'm going for a big fat burger in Camden on payday, in a restaurant a colleague recommended. So I just have to find a new bar...

    @ Sweta - Thanks! And you're right, it is fun to see new places and areas you haven't seen. The station I was at was pretty horrible though. I wish I'd got lost somewhere nicer.

    @ Erin - I hereby swear never to puke on any of your friends, family, or indeed on you. Party?

    @ Susie Q - You should! However, if when you come to London you need directions, avoid me if you see me! I'm useless, evidently.

    @ Amber - Haha, I love it. Did the map have an 'X' on your last known co-ordinates? I thought it sounded completely pretentious - maybe I should get drunk more often?

    @ Gingerella - thank you!

    @ Les Champs Elysees - 100% Fulham fan. I can't believe you've heard of them? Nobody else has. However, I support them because my dad grew up in Fulham. I grew up in East London, which is West Ham territory, which made going to school difficult if we ever lost to them...