My relationship with London is one of dualities, of love and loss, best and worst, bitter and sweet. It’s been nearly ten years since I arrived here from Australia. I hated London in the first few months. Having grown up in Sydney, and then having lived two years in the Northern Territory before arriving to London, it’s 13 million population was a shock to the system. There were people everywhere! And I felt suffocated. But for the first time, I also felt like I could just be me. I didn’t feel like I had to prove anything to anyone because in London, people just accept you. Anything goes!
I both love and hate London equally. London’s underground soon lost it’s novelty a few months after I arrived. I hate travelling on the underground now, especially on the weekends when all the tourists get in my way. I love the culture of the city, the architecture of the buildings, and all the open green spaces. I love the restaurants, the West End, and walking along the Thames, and Southbank. I have become such a Londoner, that when I lived with friends in Kent for three weeks one Summer, I not only missed London, but was happy every time I took the train there for the day!
I hate how expensive it is to live here, and the impact of these costs on your lifestyle. The price of rent and travel alone is a financial crime to us widowed/single working middle class individuals. If I could afford to live here, in my own one bedroom garden flat, and maintain my lifestyle, which includes the regular need to jet off to explore some place in the world, I would stay.
I love the diversity of cultures here in London. In spite of growing up in, and travelling to many other multicultural cities around the world, there’s something special and unique about London. There’s not only an acceptance of diversity in a city with over 200 different nationalities, but also a celebration of all these different cultures, religions and people of London. I love attending festivals in Trafalgar Square that celebrate Ramadan, Diwali, LGBT Pride and Chinese New Year.
I met the love of my life here in London. Those eight years together are some of the best I’ve ever had, exploring Europe and the world with her. But with love, sometimes there is loss in the most tragic of circumstances, and in her death, London has now become very bitter sweet for me. Full of memories of our amazing life that makes me both laugh and cry, smile and frown, feel both joy and deep sorrow.
I leave London in six weeks to begin a six month sabbatical. Will my love-hate relationship with London continue once I leave? Can I live without London, or will it always draw me back in? I guess time will tell!