An ode to London

Dear London,

What a decade it has been together. When the priest says ‘for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health’ – well damn we nailed that. From that time my friend Rachel and I returned home late to our flat above a fried chicken shop to find the cockroach poison we’d laid had 80% done its job and there were cockroaches writhing in their backs in their death throes across our kitchen floor… to the various times I found myself drunk with friends consuming far too much expensive alcohol in exclusive private members clubs across London surrounded by cockroaches of a different kind (the species that exudes indiscreet wealth and is most commonly found accompanied by a Russian lady of a certain trade).

Although now I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure which end of the spectrum either experience is, if we’re going to be really existential about this.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is it’s been a good innings. Cockroaches aside. And even though I don’t like cricket. But I do like lots of things about you, London. The easy access to blockbuster exhibitions at museums and galleries. So many bloody good restaurants. Being the epicentre of a train network across the UK, even though really it probably makes more sense if you weren’t, because really I don’t think you are a good way of dividing up some train journeys that might otherwise benefit from being a straight line. The theatres!

I will never forget cowering in my seat as dementors swooped down during The Cursed Child or watching the sunset behind the Regent’s Park open air theatre as the storyline in To Kill A Mockingbird grew darker and darker and I was reminded that I did really love the book and felt a tad guilty I’d originally bought the ticket to see the guy who plays Wilson in House play Atticus Finch. How superficial of me.

But London, you and superficiality do kind of go hand in hand. And after 10 years the glitz has worn thin, yes even before coronavirus hit, and your darker underbelly can be ignored no longer, much like my own waistline after so many Deliveroos from your delicious restaurants.

No I’m not talking about the criminal side of you – I slept through the Tottenham riots after all and was just mildly surprised to see burnt out cars and smashed shop windows when I left my flat the morning after. I’m talking about the tyranny of the tube – sweaty armpits, endless stairs and out of order lifts when you have heavy bags, and constant delays which cause so much rage you totally believe you’re late for that important work meeting because there was a 6 minute gap between trains rather than accepting you probably ought to leave on time for things more often.

I’m talking about the fact that because you have swallowed up so many smaller villages and towns that used to be NOT London you are now so massive, it’s terribly easy to still feel isolated and alone within you. ‘Nipping’ to the theatre or seeing your friend in a park actually takes several tube journeys (and I’ve already explained how I feel about those) and at least a couple of hours out of your day that in fact you feel drained and as if you had trekked to one of those places that apparently exist outside of the M25. And therefore you start doing that less and less until you realise, you barely see your friends or the glitzy parts of London and in fact all you see are dirty streets and urban foxes that you could see in any town or city across England but from the luxury of a mansion for the price you pay for housing in London.  

So I’m afraid it’s time to go our separate ways. You to carry on chewing and spitting out surrounding countryside and wide-eyed newcomers, and me to Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire. It’s the world’s first garden city you know, and it’s very green (as the name suggests).

I know what you’re going to say. “Suburbia! That’s where young couples go to together to start sprogging 2.5 children and a golden retriever between painting their picket fence Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth White.” I know it is. And I’m going to move there alone, apart from a ginger cat that may or may not be a tiger in disguise but either way is not contributing to my mortgage, and really I think I’m team Little Greene, not Farrow & Ball.

The thing is, I’m able to afford a home of my own there. No more for me the politics of house-shares, something that becomes more fraught with age. A home with a massive garden. And a man-cave that I really need to find a sign for that says She-Shed instead. All that greenness I mentioned too – that means I’m closer to more affordable horse riding, and I love entrusting my life to a mad creature every week.

There is a part of me that is scared I’ve pretty much sealed my fate of dying alone a crazy cat lady at the grand old age of 31, but you know what the men in London weren’t really working out for me anyway. Plus Ginge doesn’t snore or have existential crises that involves him behaving like a selfish dick to everyone closest to him rather than just fucking sorting his shit out like an actual adult. Ginge just jumps on my head at 2am to demand I sort the feeding crisis brewing in his stomach. I can empathise with that.

I’ll actually be closer to friends and family too, helped by the fact, it just makes more sense to own a car outside of you, London. I’ve left one of the busiest cities in the world to feel less alone. How ironic.

Don’t give me that hurt look. It really is me not you. I’ve grown up. I’ve realised that what matters most in this world are your friends and family, and being true to yourself. And a home of your own where you can host your amazing loved ones, as well as have alone time to just be you, is pretty helpful. (Having space to set up a menagerie of animals is pretty important too).

And don’t worry, we’ll still see each other. I’m still within commuting distance of you. Ironically, it may even be a less fraught journey to see you and your glitzy sights, now I’m no longer beholden to dark arts of the District Line.  

As Vera Lynn said – we’ll meet again. After all, Letchworth may well end up being a suburb of you in a few decades time…

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