Wednesday, June 13, 2012
We had a nice, somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to London on Saturday, where the flags from the Diamond Jubilee are still a'fluttering, as you can see. We went up because I was the winner of the lucky door prize at a launch I went to a few weeks ago, which was two tickets to a show at the Royal Opera House, complete with behind the scenes tour beforehand!
Getting out of London by car on a Saturday was always a nightmare when we lived there, but the journey in by car was surprisingly easy - only an hour! We parked near our former flat and it was nice to see the old place again. I was a bit miffed when I saw that the landlord had finally made the improvements I had asked them for for about a year (but in fairness that was the only way they would get another tenant in, the place was falling apart!) but overall the neighbourhood hadn't changed and it was nice to wander around all our old haunts into the main arteries of the city, thinking wow, this all so amazing and it all used to be on our doorstep. I've been to London many times since we left - I was commuting in for a while! - but going back to our old neighbourhood, where Tom and I began our married life, tugged at the heart a little.
Later, after a day wandering around places I used to see every nearly day (Victoria, St James Park, Piccadilly, Seven Dials), over gin and tonics waiting for the performance at the Royal Opera House, I asked Tom why we had never been to the ROH before, when it had been practically around the corner from us for years, and when we had the money to be far more extravagant than one G&T each :) He didn't really have an answer, nor did I. It's funny how you don't really think about these things until you don't have them any more. Our move to the country has been a really good one for us in so many ways, and so many Londoners I know want nothing more than to escape to the country for a quieter, more pared back existence, but that night, at that moment, I wanted to be back there, walking those streets again that I have walked so often I think (to paraphrase Sylvia Plath's "Mirror") they are a part of my heart; to put a key into the door of a flat where you can hear Big Ben chiming in the distance and the rattle of a tube train underneath; to feel the grit of that bustling, steamy, noisy place on my skin again.
But I don't miss feeling permanently pissed off, the way I did when I lived there. And perhaps permanently is the wrong word; it was just a subtle feeling that hung about, a rose not quite in bloom. It would lay dormant for a while but would flare up if a cyclist or car went through a zebra crossing I was already halfway across, or if I got shoved every which way on a peak hour tube or bus, or if I got caught behind a crowd of people who had stopped on a corner for no reason. I have a very acute sense of justice and am not really able to understand why people are discourteous when there's no call for it, I tend to take it a bit personally. London isn't really a place to indulge that side of yourself, I found. You definitely have to harden up, which I did. There's a lot of brutality and harshness in the city which you learn to cope with but by the same token there is also so much beauty, everywhere you look. There is kindness, joy, laughter, celebration, and people helping each other. It is possible to go from one extreme to the other within a block, really. And when London does come together as a community, the place radiates. It's a complex and beautiful place, with so much history, so much pride. While some aspects of life there I could do without, I will never tire of it. And I miss it. I wonder if we'll ever go back.
And the performance at the Royal Opera House was superb, impeccable. If you want a real night out in London do go and see a show there, do a tour if you feel so inclined (if you're interested in history, you'll love it) and have a drink in the champagne bar under the grand sparkling glass arches of the old Covent Garden flower market. For not that much money you can have a rather decadent and entertaining evening, sipping a drink at the bar, people watching, surrounded by gentlemen in black ties and smelling expensive perfume in every direction. A lovely window into a lovely side of London ;)
Thank you for your lovely comments on last week's post too, by the way :) xxx