Friday, 18 November 2016

London, a suitcase and a head full of dreams

“Hunters? Not in London.” 

However necessary or unnecessary, my nearest and dearest Sophie won’t part with them, after all they will be the only glorified country part of her new life she will be leading in the city. After another month or so more in the fabulous British countryside, my oldest friend will be waving goodbye to vegetable patches and Ploughman’s lunches as she departs South for a new life in the Big Smoke. Apprehensive as to how the city treats country folk, she fears the unforeseeable future.

As an ex-Londoner and crowd pusher myself, I offer my assistance in reassuring her that the home of the Queen, Tait Modern and Oyster cards is nothing but an exciting opportunity. For all its energy, for all the flux in the lives it contains, London has it all. This rings true in all that the city has to offer: museums, galleries, parks, Wimbledon for tennis fans, Twickenham for rugby fans and Henley for the regatta to name a few.

Once a fellow London dweller and NW3 postcode owner, I found the city’s constant change invisible to me; the blurry, time-lapse flow of so much activity against an unmoving background of asphalt, brick, stone, steel and glass. And it was in this backdrop that my life transformed from country bumpkin to tube sardine extraordinaire.  As I suspected dinner with the girls became something of a social occasion, sharing food for fun and cosmos for confession. A necessity in today’s world where women today have the stress of a professional career, worlds apart from their traditional expectations of simple (or perhaps not so simple) child-rearing. And as I breathe a somewhat nostalgic sigh, in the words of BB King I tell Sophie to ‘”let the good times roll”.
London can be a tough place, but so can anywhere. It’s expensive and the reality is bottomless brunch will not always be a regular feature in ones social calendar. The travel gets to you after a while. Landlords are fickle and it’s common to move at least once every year. And you will pay £1,200 a month for a studio the size of a walk-in wardrobe but you’ll think it’s a bargain. You must also accept that you are going to get ripped off, accept that someone will shout at you in the street and accept that your mail will go missing. You will start saying “the City” and expect everyone to know which one. The UK west of Heathrow will remain theoretical to you, and you’ll insist never wanting to live anywhere else until you get married. But at times you just need to take a deep breath and realise that living in one of Europe’s largest cities, in one of those rare places in the world that is truly international, is simply incredible. As I finally stop my 'reach for the stars' rant I tell her that Little London, a world of its own and one that has its own rules, is there for the taking. So take time off. Visit the parks. Explore the quirky villages and inhale the eclectic mix of variety that nowhere else can offer.
Sophie’s house now appears as if she has been robbed, and you would guess by the array of moving boxes that she was in fact moving today. In reality her final glorious and festive month in the country seems to slip her mind; she actually seems to find pleasure in running around like a headless chicken way in advance. And if I’m honest she shows great promise as a future Londoner; frantic and 110 miles per hour comes in handy when embarking on daily tube running and bus diving in Central London’s rush hour. They don't call it the human race for nothing. 

So with no questions asked I start organising boxes and within a few hours the packing process is well underway. It’s in this short space of time where I realise that moving house is possibly even more traumatic than having to fix a puncture in the rain when you are already running late for dinner with the in-laws. Her house is a war zone of boxes, some crammed with clothes and books, others filled with all manner of gardening paraphenalia and items she can’t quite bring herself to throw out, even if they are as useful as a screen-door on a submarine. And for someone who rarely puts things back in the same place you can see her predicament when trying to locate items of worthy importance; p45 form, passport etc…

As the final few boxes are taped, we huddle together close. This is the point of no return for my Sophie. Country life of a country wife will have to wait. The future ahead is somewhat unpredictable but will no doubt be filled with making choices and taking chances. At times, not being the worlds most decisive individual, this may be tough and wrong decisions may be made, but I like to think that sometimes the remedy for what ails us can be found in tea, chocolate and sympathy but other times it takes a good, strong belt of something decidedly alcoholic – and that is the order of the day.
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