Friday, 17 July 2015

Thoughts on Staying in London

When I moved to London two years ago it was never with the intention to stay permanently. I moved here to experience life in the city and to make the most of my twenties whilst I still have no particular ties. Over the last few weeks I've seen a number of articles where the writer talks about giving up on the capital and leaving. Reading those articles has made me think about my own position in London - do I still love it the same way I did in the first six months or has my relationship with the city changed?

I won't say it is always easy to live here. The hardest thing is the expense. Rent, bills, travel card, drinks, food, things... I suffer from buyer's guilt quite seriously, but mostly because buying that handbag, pair of shoes or necklace will mean one less theatre trip that month. In this sense I actually have to thank London for curbing my love of shopping. I used to really enjoy a day spent in town buying useless things and spending money unnecessarily, but London has cured me of that. Granted, it wasn't a cure I'd asked for, nevertheless I have since realised it was a cure I needed. Aside from books (come on, I'm never not going to buy books), London has encouraged a more minimalist lifestyle. Even when it comes to books I lean so heavily on second hand purchases and London makes that very easy with the delights of Charing Cross Road and the South Bank Book Market.

Over the last two years I've become quite the expert of searching out bargains and ways to save. I moved here for the museums, theatres and music venues and having very little spare cash doesn't mean I don't (or can't) make the most of what's on offer. Lots of the big theatres and arts venues (the Old Vic, Barbican, National Theatre to name a few) have memberships for under 25's or 26's which mean much cheaper tickets. Saving money there allows me to buy tickets for the slightly smaller theatres (the Southwark Playhouse is a favourite) at full price without worrying about the expense. I also have a National Art Card which entitles me to free, half-price or reduced entry to a huge number of museums and exhibitions for a yearly fee (again, there's one for under 26's). Plus, I'm giving to a good cause at the same time so, you know, it's all good.

Even after the expense, London is anonymous city; it's fast and it can be harsh and unforgiving. Everyone is in a rush and on those days when a smile from a stranger would be most welcome, the likelihood is that you won't get one. Having said that, Londoners can be kind on occasion. More than once I've headed for the last empty seat on the tube at the same time as someone else and they've let me take it. Yes, you may get pushed and shoved and knocked out of the way, but sometimes someone will be different and, in a city like this, the someone sometime can be all you need.

London forever surprises me. No matter how I make my way around the city - foot, bus or tube - it's not unusual to see something new every time I go out. Just the other day when I walked to work, along a route I drive each time I leave London, I came across a statue of Rossetti which I'd not before noticed as a driver or passenger. I also noticed a number of the blue plaques (which I love to spot). Whenever I see something like that I always think to myself  'well, you don't get that in Taunton'. For me, that sums up exactly why I live here and why I'll continue to live here until I'm dragged out kicking and screaming (or, you know, decide to start a family or some such).

There are a number of pros and cons to living here, as you can see. Neither of which outweigh the other in my opinion, at least not yet. I know London is changing and some would say it's becoming a place unwelcoming to Londoners. I'm determined to stick it out until I can longer afford to, or I can no longer bear the anonymity of the city.

It may be expensive and it may drive me up the wall sometimes, but London still has my heart and will no doubt hold it for quite some time. My relationship with this sprawling metropolis has had its ups and downs, but ultimately I love this city for its history, for its energy and for its beauty, so I won't be going anywhere just yet.

Put it this way - London is not without its flaws, but for the moment I'll be embracing them.


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