I am sat in a cafe-bar at 11am in downtown Soho. The animosity of London is a bit of a slap in the face – some people might find it aggressively so, but this December morning I find it most refreshing; I welcome it the way I welcome the North Sea on New Year’s Day as I jump forth.. It leaves me buzzing.
Please don’t mistake my enjoyment of animosity for being a festive humbug. I am in fact loving the Christmas decorations, the mixture of people, shops- especially the Italian delicatessen where I have just come from. It was small and stuffed with a jungle of foods dangling from the ceiling and shop keepers serving customers from ladders. This all feels rather fresh compared to living in Hay, and although it is looking like a Victorian picture post card at present it can become claustrophobic for me at times- everyone knows everyone.
I sense an opportunity sat at a bar with an Americano, pen in hand and a scruffy bit of paper I have magically plucked from my bag. I allow the background noise of chatter and clattering to cajole me into my writing mood. As a creative, this sensation of animosity seems to be encouraging; giving myself a ‘mind and body space’- I disconnect from the world and yet reconnect with my thoughts. In a way I am finding a deep concentration out of placing myself in the undeniably loud distraction of London life.
You see for me, I find an almost productive quality in being anonymous and I find being ‘alone’ somehow uncomfortable. I would loathe being ‘alone’. I find when one is truly alone one can lose one’s wits rapidly and unravel a once tidy ball of emotional wool of the mind. Being alone can mean ending up feeling physically entwined in the illusions of that ball of wool. However in my current location with unknown humans all around me I am occupied, comforted and inspired – not at speck of wool in sight!
Time in cities evaporates quickly, it doesn’t linger. I get an energy where upon I need to document the moment before it flies away like the pigeons in Trafalger Square as another toddler in a woolly hat charges excitedly over to them, only to discover they flee up into a monument.
Though I have never lived in London I do feel I have a personal relationship with her – but perhaps it is one of those relationships where it means more to me than it does to her. If she thought really hard she might remember my child self coming to visit on a National Express bus from Bradford, just for the day with my twenty something year old Mother.
I expect I have had very little impact on London, just brushing past her throughout my life over a period of twenty five years; yet she has penetrated my bones. I remember arriving in London and finding this place a profound experience as a toddler. The carnival of sights, sounds, smells, cultures, languages, architecture, extravagance, poverty, beauty and decay all thriving side by side.
It could have been overwhelming, an invasive situation for a small person to find one’s self in, yet I mastered the understanding that this was about something bigger me and how I felt. I was able to grasp that a tantrum in London would be invisible to the thousands of people who passed me by, and my red duffle coat was a mere speck of colour in what seemed like the birthplace of vibrancy. All I could do was hold tight on to my Mother’s hand and immerse my small self into this living organism that is London.
“There are two places in the world where men can most effectively disappear- the city of London and the South Seas”- Herman Melville
Thank you for reading and your comments over the years. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017.