It’s always worth looking on the bright side of any situation. I’ve been in London for all but 2 nights since last October. That should have been enough to drive me mad, but there’s silver linings! So here’s a list: 10 things that have kept me
relatively sane since my move from Down Under…
1. You’re in touch with the world – it feels like things happening here aren’t just from here. In South Kensington, there’s a bunch of embassies, with big flags flying and gaggles of protestors. Big exhibitions and events come to London, because: it’s London.
2. Public transport that works (most of the time): Yes, the Circle line sucks on weekends. And buses seem to know when you can least afford to be late. But I contrast that against the large number of times I’ve stepped onto a tube platform and within a minute a train has arrived to whisk me home – no forward planning necessary.
3. Parks: There are lots of them. That’s really, really good. This is such a busy and dense city that everyone needs to know they can find a bit of space once in a while. I do. Whether it’s a late night ramble in Gunnersbury Park or crossing Hyde Park on a sunny day, there’s somewhere that the traffic noise is muted and squirrels roam.
4. Iconic places: Australia doesn’t have a lot of iconic places, unless you happen to commute near Sydney Harbour. London has loads, both old and new. The entire Thames is basically a list of recognisable spots. South Ken has its share, St Pancras is famous for its beauty and even Piccadilly Circus can be OK if you squint and ignore the tackiness.
5. Secrets: The flipside of #4 is the chance that you will stick to these well-known places. Don’t. There are so many little backstreets, alleys, basement bars or, well, spots that are more than 15 minutes from a tube station. You just need to keep your eyes open, and if there’s a door open or a path to take, move your feet and go. Just the other day, a random turn led me to Postman’s Park near St. Paul’s. It houses a memorial to heroic acts of self-sacrifice; touching, yet in an odd way, the century-old descriptions are quaint.
6. Multiculturality: this ties in with #1. The Gold Coast and Adelaide – my two hometowns in Australia – are fairly homogeneous. There’s still a lot of cultures represented, but they’re in the minority. I saw a greater variety of people in the Gloucester Road Sainsbury’s entrance on my first night in London than I would in a week at home!
7. It’s not all pretty: London has a long and often dirty and gloomy history. Today, there’s plenty of touristy places, though they often have a bit of a rough edge (hustlers on Westminster Bridge anyone?). If you look harder, though (#5!) there’s gritty reality too. That’s important.
8. Museums: Good ones. I haven’t been to all of them; has anyone? On Monday, I went to the Museum of London. I’d had a stroll around the ‘old’ section before, but this time went to the display on 1900-today. It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Especially the map room showing a ‘scientific’ survey of class in 1900, and the video display of ‘changing perspectives’. Go. It’s free. It’s good. And it’s near the Barbican.
9. The Royal Albert Hall: Yes, the sound isn’t great. But it’s simply the coolest place I’ve been to see concerts. It seems to draw reverence and soul out of the artists and share them with everyone present.
10a, b and c. Chocolate is cheap, squirrels, and The Walpole. That is all.
Now your turn – what do you love about London? And if you’re not one of the 8 million living in London – what’s good about your town?