For the Love of London

I woke to a steady urban hum rising from the streets below and through my open window. It was early, and I didn’t want to get up. The trek to work took longer from my Devonshire flat than the place in Green Park, but it was worth the trade for the extra space of a studio and small kitchen. I turned on BBC and plugged in the hot plate; sipped some instant coffee and dug through my suitcase for a pair of worn jeans and a white tank top. I pulled on a pair of converse chucks, brushed my teeth, and checked the time. This was my 9-5. I walked from Devonshire to Regency and descended with the rest to the London underground. Straight to Piccadilly, march to Saville Row. Everyday it was the same. Clock in. Feign interest in the inevitable inconvenience of the daily grind. Engage in nonstop weirdness. Plot escape. Clock out.

Getting on with the English seemed to me a practiced skill, one I never did master. In a city teeming with transients and transplants, I imagine it is easier to ignore than to invest in those who aren't likely to stick around. I myself was a transient; a short-term on-looker. Admittedly, London never made any sense to me. It was chaotic yet strictly organized and maintained; old but modern. People of every sort stood shoulder to shoulder in the tube, mostly quiet and staring at smart phones. Double-decker buses passed by masses of pedestrians at perilous speeds with less than inches of space. Green parks split open urban stacks. Primark beckoned. I walked the streets, wandered shop floors at Harrod's, sat through an opera and ducked into downtown pubs. I stopped at Top Shop more than I like to admit. But I never did belong.

Two weeks of an urban routine left me desperate for something unkept, and so I caught the morning train to West Worthing with some friends to occupy the pier. The trip was stormy, windy, and total perfection. I loved that London housed two different worlds, separated by just two hours’ time.

After weeks of the same, I thought to search out the quiet pockets of London within the urban maze. I rode the tube before dawn, escaping the morning raid. I walked the Hungerford bridge after midnight, where the sound of a single saxophone echoed eerily over the River Thames. I wandered Oxford Circus in the wee hours, and ran through Queen Mary’s gardens in Regent's Park after dark. It wasn't enough. The endless rows of brownstones and mechanic motion proved too much. For this girl, the grass will always be greener in wild spaces. Still, a captivating place she is, London.