Tuesday, 14 October 2008

considering herself, at home.

Ah, London. I worked out that in the end I've spent almost a month in London this year: enough for it to feel familiar, enough to feel almost-at-home, like a visitor not a tourist. Still, becuase I've got a pattern going here, more dot-points (sorry Kate) and then finally some words about this city. K? K.

  • Thursday: to London. Yo! Sushi @ Paddington station. Went to Oxford St, fought with the Apple people again, Primark, the Gap. Collected the rest of my luggage.
  • Friday: Boden shop morning, Jermyn st (tie). Helped Nhan to the airport with her luggage (novel to be on the other side), Mozart's Requiem at St Martin in the Fields.
  • Saturday: Flamingos 6 floors up, Kensington High St, Hyde Park (Albert Memorial, Diana Memorial, kids soccer), Harrods (madness and the Laduree for one final macaron), the British Museum (saw the Rosetta Stone, gave up on the crazy crowds in exchange for truffle cake), the Mousetrap, Avenue Q (most excellent, a real highlight!).
  • Sunday: Windsor Castle (better than Buckingham or Versailles, collections like a storybook), coffee w Sarah.

London is an interesting place and I'm not sure I can express my feelings about it properly to anyone but myself. One of my friend's uncle's lived there for 20 years, and he says that the only people who lived in London are the exceptionally rich, those who grew up there and have never known anything different, and foreigners who're still starry eyed and haven't figured that you can have a nicer quality of life by commuting. That seems a fair enough summary to me: there're bogans (chavs?) here when in Paris they'd be relegated to the suburbs, yet a good standard of living is incredibly expensive , and there are more Australians than in Hobart. Which all makes for a rather odd experience really: it's a huge city so there are always things to amaze; you never really feel like a foreigner, but never really fit in either. Constantly in London I felt torn between different parts of the world, and different parts of myself.

The thing I liked most about London is how much of everything felt so familiar even whilst it was brand new to me. So much of our culture is based on the British, and so much of the British is based on the capital... Tube stops ring bells for Australian suburbs, familiar words like 'ta' and 'bloody' are used here easily though they cannot be in America or Europe, street names recall nursery rhymes, the architecture screams of a certain ABC cop show...

What I gleaned most from London, however, was an understanding of why English people are as they are. Or maybe it's the other way around. English people are a bit dowdy, glum, and deadpan. A M&S sandwich represents a gourmet lunch (actually, they are quite good). There's a murder in London almost every day. The landscape reflects all this: it's grey, a bit grubby and it rains, rains, rains. But despite all this, there are wonders everywhere. Perhaps not around every corner - it's too big for that, but this city has nourished the English language's best writer, it has built (and, ahem, pillaged for) the world's greatest museum, its tube carries a billion passengers a year. London is quite literally, the centre of the world, yet somehow, like the people, this giant city just keeps calm and carries on, but always with a twinkle in its eye.

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