Since 2010, I’ve been writing about London. And since 2009, I’ve been living in London – firstly North of the river in Tufnell Park, then South in Wimbledon, then finally West in Ealing (sorry, East). That’s almost a decade of London living. So it really did feel like the end of an era when in March, my husband and I packed our lives into a shipping container and flew across the Atlantic to start our new lives in America.
Moving country is super stressful – no, not nearly as stressful as planning a wedding, but not far off – so it’s little wonder that I’ve had time to update my lovely blog. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about it; I’ve been meaning to write my love letter to London for quite some time.
Tired of London? Yes, I probably was. Tired of life? Erm, no. It’s just nearly 10 years living anywhere is a lot. And city life was great, but it was high time for my next adventure. Saying that, here are some of my fondest memories of my time there and the things I’ll miss the most.
Transport for London
Who doesn’t love a passive aggressive “Can you MOVE DOWN PLEASE”? How about a sweaty hand on your shoulder, getting stuck in the closing doors or someone vomiting on you as you get off the bus? I’ve had all of these on TfL. Still, there’s nowhere quite like it! Big shout out to the typography, expertly displayed at the London Transport Museum.
Food and drink
Pub grub, pop-ups, fry ups, street food, curry on Brick Lane, Asian, Asian-Fusion, Vegan, French, Italian, food stalls, salads, pulled meats, mulled wine in the winter, pitchers of Pimm’s in the summer aka ‘summer in a glass’, afternoon tea, high tea and a whole host of reasonably priced but actually quite lovely chains (Nando’s, Bill’s, Giraffe). Yeah, nice.
Pub games, pubs when the football’s on, pub quizzes, beer gardens, gastropubs, pubs on the river, locally crafted brews and spirits – you can’t beat a good pub. Shout out to my old local, The Kings Arms, purveyors of fine Thai cuisine, Wordsoup/slop and putting the ‘fun’ in function room for our bon voyage party (our America-themed cake made by the extra-talented Ivan Markovic).
You don’t need to do a ghost walk to get a flavour of London’s history (although I did). It’s everywhere. Every building has a presence. Every narrow street has a story. I especially love the City of London, Temple and St Paul’s for this.
Day festivals, night festivals, beer festivals, fancy cocktails at Sketch and in Canary Wharf, rooftop bars in car parks (I’m looking at you, Pergola on the Roof), dining in the dark at Dans le Noir, silent discos at the Shard, immersive theatre doing You, Me, Bum Bum Train in an abandoned office block, comedy nights, club nights at Fabric and under the arches at London Bridge – I’ve had some awesome days and nights out in London, as I recall.
For me, pastimes have always meant writing, fitness and shopping. The lovely bunch of talented humans I met at the West London Writers’ Group made my final few years in Ealing a joy. Then there’s the myriad of physical stuff you can do outside – bike rides, boot camps, running, 5K runs – I got into running around local parks and going to Zumba classes for a while before I got seriously into my gym in the office. Not to mention watching my home team Arsenal FC at the Emirates and living close enough to walk to the tennis at Wimbledon. And shopping, sigh. All my money went on clothes. Westfield and Brent Cross were my go-to Saturday morning haunts. Luckily for me, I have moved to a country with ALL THE MALLS.
The dating scene
Well, considering I met my hubbie at a Shoreditch football-themed Victoriana speed dating event, and had a ton of fun online dating in the city, I would say the opportunity to meet new people every day is one of the best things about living in London. When single, naturally. My fave date venues include the Tate Modern, the BFI bar, Coq d’Argent, Baltic and Underbelly on the South Bank.
We’re a bunch of proud, quiet, boisterous, rude, shallow, fun-loving jokers. I love how Londoners never talk to strangers, but once that seal is broken (maybe in a taxi, or in a shop, or at a gig), you’re friends for life. We vote sensibly, protest loudly, and are kind to our neighbours when we know they’re not psychos. London is a diverse, weird, and beautiful city full of crazies with hopes and dreams. I once had a homeless guy sing Valerie to me because he thought I was Amy Winehouse. Truth. And then there was 2012 and the incredible spirit around the Olympics… I’ll never forget that I had the opportunity to volunteer with my fellow Londoners to be a part of that. I’ve never felt more of a harmony with London than I did then.
I could go on.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner that I love London Town… or maybe it’s because I’m an ex-pat with some time and space away from the city that was my home for nearly a decade that I can look back and fondly reminisce.
London, never change.