Emily Rath

London in December

 

London

I have wanted to live in London since discovering its magic fifteen years ago. However I’ve only ever been here on family vacations as a tourist and for a handful of days this Spring on my own.  Perhaps it was fate. I have been forbidden by border control to do my original plan, WWOOFING (volunteering on an organic farm while you get free accomodation and food), and been sternly told by an understanding officer, “Emily, you can come into our country only if you have a nice vacation and ‘don’t go to the farm!'”  So, by chance, I am living my dream, by spending my summer in London.

As a twenty eight year old with quite a bit of worldly experience, I have to say that London is wild.  It’s diverse.  It is insane.  I LOVE it.  I am lonely and so so cold.  And it’s May.  But I am in LONDON.  There is an answer to any problem you have whether the answer comes in the form of a museum, a huge park, or a golden cider at the pub.  London has everything for everyone, which is overwhelming, expensive, and thrilling.

Here are a few things I have learned in the past several days:

1) In the center people move quickly.  Does anyone breathe?  Or stop?  I do not think I have seen anyone stop.  Except a tourist here or there.

2) The weather in Italy is tempermental.  It changes, daily.  The weather in Colorado changes even more.  They say if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait a minute.  The weather in England changes before you even have a second to think about the weather.

3) Londoners dress well.  Or differently.  Suits, ties, heels, trench coats, boots, 80s, hip, punk… It is a sunny day and everyone is dressed accordingly.  No umbrellas or raincoats in sight.  The clouds shift and suddently you are being sprayed by raindrops because you are the tourist relying on yahoo weather and didn’t realize yahoo weather isn’t BFFs with London’s tempermental clouds.  Like magic, the same people who minutes before were dressed for summer are seamlessly gliding through the streets with umbrellas and raincoats as if nothing had happened at all.  How do they do this?

4) Everyone is different.  You don’t realize you’ve been living in a bubble (called Italy) until your bubble bursts.  London is a pop up book, with pages of every color, size, shape, width, height, and personality possible.  Walk through Waterloo station and you get an education on the human race.  It’s incredible and I love the diversity.

5) It is overwhelming being on the streets.  Everyone is walking with purpose and knows where they are going.  They are dressed well.  They have their own style.  The buildings are tall.  You don’t know where you are.  Bank district?  Money seems more prolific here.  You walk around.  You don’t know where you are.  Shoreditch?  You see graffiti and rain.  You check your iPhone.  Your service isn’t working.  You stand under the shelter of a random building as you desperatyely jab your fingers at your hand held internet to have this electronic face tell you where to go, instead of, God forbid, ask a human being.

I have done my fair share of asking for directions.  Literally, everyday.  I promise you.  But sometimes you are so overwhelmed that you can only talk to your familiar friend, Google.  I am trying to rely on my phone less and even when it is there, fully charged, begging to be used, I ask people where to go.  It engages me with the outside world.  It challenges my shyness and fear.  How else do you expect to make friends, meet people, and learn which way’s up in London if your face is kissing your phone?

6) Men check you out here.  Differently.  Differently than in Italy.  It’s refreshing.  Most of them are subtle.  A glance.  Often the glance is confusing.  In Italy it is pretty obvious when someone wants you.  “CIAO BELLA.  Scusa!  BIONDA!  Ciao!  Ciao!  Hello!!  Where are you from!?”  Here it is a glance.  Do I have food on my face?  Does he hate me because I am American?  Am I dressed badly?  All of these thoughts float through my head like the red busses flying by in the streets.  But their shyness… oh God I love it!

7) Every neighborhood and every zone is different.  I have seen WAY too much of Oxford street, which I despise now because of the endless shopping.  It is shopping on steroids.  Shoreditch is gritty, real, colorful.  I love it.  Chelsea is elegant, open, and clean.  There is much to learn and see and do.  If only I had the time and money.

8)  Londoners are very kind.  Sure, I have met some very rude people (like the horrid woman selling bagels last night on Brick Lane…).  But I have been floored by people’s generosity and kindness here.  Last night I met the loveliest Italian lady who works at her Uncle’s restaurant.  The bouncer at a bar helped me with directions and was very sweet.  And all I was buying was water!  Today I overspent at the organic grocery store and had far too little money to pay for what I wanted.  But the manager just let me have $40 worth of products for free!  People are genuinely very kind here.  Diverse, separate, living their own lives, but unified and flowing energetically, together.

First week in London… more to come.

All my love,

Emily

“The only definition of a Londoner I followed was the people you see around you.  …They are laughing, rushing, coniving, snatching free evening newspapers, speaking into phones, complaining, sweeping floors, tending to hedge funds, pushing empty pint glasses, marching, arguing, drinking, kneeling, swaying, huffing at those who stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, moving, moving, always moving.  It’s a city of verbs.  It’s been exhilerating to capture all these words…”

-Craig Taylor, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It, 2011

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