Sunday, 31 May 2015

Can you be tired of London without being tired of life?

I am coming to the end of the first, almost full week, I’ve spent in Sussex since last September. And the idea of going back to London is not filling me with excitement. You see, London and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship – and after some time spent away, I’m struggling with the ‘love’ bit.

I’ll take you back: I grew up in a tiny village in Sussex, you don’t really get more remote. I spent my younger years bargaining with my parents to take me places, to friends’ houses (all of whom lived at least half an hour away), to train stations and, as a last resort, bus stops. When I could drive, I spent all my time going back and forth too, it was just on my own clock. So the idea of London, with its extensive transport network, bustle and plethora of opportunities and events seemed like the dream – and, when I was deciding what university to go to, I only really wanted to end up in London.

But now I’m here, and I have been for 18 months, and it’s not quite everything I dreamed of. To be fair, the public transport is very frequent and there are always things going on, but that’s only the beginning. I envisioned myself spending days in museums and galleries, walking through the parks, along the Southbank, discovering the markets London has to offer, and being surrounded by so much excellent theatre. It hasn’t quite worked out like that, except maybe the theatre. I took my first walk along the Southbank since living in London last Saturday evening, and it was pleasant. But I went there with a purpose, to see a play, it’s never just somewhere I would, as I’d anticipated, ‘end up’. I’m yet to visit the V&A, the Horniman Museum, Victoria Park, Portobello Road Market, Tate Britain, and pretty much the whole of East and West London. And everywhere else iconic, I’d probably visited before I lived in London, on day trips.

You could, very convincingly, argue that it’s my own fault: that there are all of these things on my doorstep, and I am actively choosing not to do them…which is partly true. But I also think it’s part of ‘Londoner lifestyle’. It’s the same as anywhere: you never do the things that are right on your doorstep, because they’re always there, and you don’t quite get round to it. It’s the same wherever you live. I kind of expected Central London to be on my doorstep, but it isn’t really, and nor is for most Londoners. Central London always involves a bus or train journey (or a bike ride that I’m still too scared to do); it involves battling with tourists and day trippers; and paying over the odds for a sandwich/coffee/beer. It just requires a level of commitment and endurance that I don’t associate with ‘a day out at home’. All of this is fine if you are a day tripper, coming up, as I was, from sleepy Sussex, because you’re prepared for it: you’ve got a destination in mind, you’ve planned your journey, you’re going with a purpose – not just out, because it’s Sunday, and you feel like you should do something with your weekend. I feel like I’m already part of the rat race, even as a student, always in a rush in London. I feel like I need to get in and get out as quickly as I can…because that’s just what you do.

And that’s what I miss about home, about the countryside. Being at home means I can hop in the car, or wander into town, just because it’s nice weather and I want to. It’s effortless, it’s relaxing, it’s not battling with the busyness. It means that wherever I go, I’ll almost certainly bump into someone I know, see some friendly faces, rather than avoid eye contact with awkward strangers on the tube. It means space. It means time. It means not being exhausted by every day. It means calm. It means quiet.

So today I’ll go back to London, and revel in all the opportunities and events it presents. Sometimes I’ll love it and sometimes I’ll hate it. But I go knowing it’s not forever. Knowing that I will go to London and take what it offers me. But that, at some point, I’ll take it all away to the countryside, only returning to London for the day trips and theatre and culture (and probably work). Because the countryside is where I belong, it's where I'm happiest. 


1 comment

  1. I love this! It's so hard to be mindful in London. Being mindful is something you really need to go out of your way to do here, it just doesn't happen naturally. Then even when you remember to try there's always something there making you stressed out anyway. Your blog is lovely by the way! Xxx


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