We’ve just returned from 2 weeks back in the UK and, as dorky as it is and I was unnerved by how much I had missed London; and furthermore, how much I was still hopelessly and foolishly in love with it.
Oh, sure, attempting to drag my heavy sports bag through Trafalgar Square on the Saturday before Christmas was hideous; and, oh, yes, drunk Chelsea fans screaming at each other across the carriage of an otherwise peaceful afternoon Victoria line tube was beyond parody; and, oh, yes, I pretty much hemorrhaged money every time I turned around; but, oh, still, isn’t London just wonderful?
There’s really nothing specific in London that explains such strong feelings. A few years ago I might have blamed it on London’s ‘theatre scene’. Certainly I still have lots of friends in London.
But, it’s something more than that. Despite all the terrible things you can say about London (and there are some terrible things you can say about London. See this video and article for further evidence of London’s terrible modern character: http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/this-advert-for-luxury-london-flats-is-bordering-on-the-apocalyptic–e11dUJmBqe), I can’t help but constantly glimpse of the London I fell in love with in the first place. The watery mirror image of St. Paul’s and London Bridge in the old Thames TV logo. Long rows of grey-brown terraced houses that shared one long roof like in C. S. Lewis’ ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. 50 pence pieces that may just turn out to be magic and grant me 7 wishes just like Melody in ‘The Queen’s Nose’.
There is the reality of London; and then there is my imaginary London, crafted out of books and TV shows and movies and photos and paintings and scraps of anecdotes and biographies and histories that I have collected over the years, and rather than the former superseding and destroying the latter, they exist side by side and feed off each other and make each other more wonderful. A skeleton of Chaucer’s House sits in a modern roundabout. Old tube lines are now overgrown, green pathways, leading you through abandoned tube stations, not on the platform like a person, but on the tracks like a train. You go for a drink at the backstage NT bar and who is drinking with you, but Dr. Who, of course, and as long as you don’t talk to him and force yourself to ruin the illusion and realise that it’s only an actor, it’s only Peter Capaldi, you can pretend the Tardis is probably parked just around the corner and you’ll see it on your way out.
My brain is not entirely comfortable with this level of rose-tinted whimsy, but apparently my emotions are in no way interested in being reigned in. I love London, hopelessly, irrationally, irrevocably