Ties that Bind
I’ve visited London 12 times over the past 20 years. On our last trip we celebrated SJ’s 2nd birthday with Prince George at Diana’s Memorial playground in Hyde Park on an impromptu playdate. Nanny and Princess Charlotte were in tow. It was a chance encounter of two toddlers running around a huge wooden pirate ship and taking turns at the slide. No, I didn’t take any photos in respect of privacy and to just savor the moment. Ironically, my mom met Prince Charles and Princess Di back in the ‘80s. Who knew that their two future grandchildren, whom they would never meet themselves, would somehow come together in a sandbox? This is London. My London.
The Hook Up
We first met in 1997. London and I. I was aware of his sordid past with numerous others – famous writers, artists, musicians, royalty. How could he be as great as everyone claims? Well, he’s not. He’s better.
London didn’t sweep me off my feet. The courtship was subtle. A flirtatious walk through St. James’ Park one day and Regent’s the next. Eventually farther afield to Hampstead Heath then Kew Gardens. Each beautiful in its own way. Each offering a different vantage point of London life. Iconic Notting Hill, ceremonial Kensington and Buckingham palaces and the eerie Tower of London. All the places in your guidebook’s checklist. Been there, done that. Worth it.
Parts of London are quaint. Some of it charming. But it’s also raw. A concrete jungle of crowded neighborhoods representing colorful populations ranging from Brick Lane to Primrose to South Bank. I love hearing the mix of Italian, Chinese, Hindu, Dutch and eating the foods to match. Spending a morning at the Tate laughing at abstract installations exhibiting some sort of truth, followed by a walk across the modern Millennium bridge towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, where John Donne and Christopher Wren are laid to rest; and from where a climb of 528 stairs can get you 360 degree views of the gray somber city below. It’s moody. Slightly snooty but self-deprecating and polite when it needs to be. At times it’s rowdy and cheeky. But you take the good with the bad. Despite its crap weather, packed Tube stations, and even Brexit, I still look beyond its flaws and consider London my refuge.
It’s the first place I turned to when my mom died. We crossed the pond in cold January to a quiet and crisp London. We visited the house where Mom lived in Kensington as a teenager. We walked our familiar stomping grounds but each morning was greeted with the prospect of a new discovery. Even in my mournful state, London brought out the best in me. He inspires me to live in the present, with intention.
Long Distance Relationship
I miss London when I’m not there. I picture myself in Borough Market selecting the cheese and bread of the day while grabbing a samosa take away and Turkish delight. I recall the scents from medicinal herbs at the Chelsea Psychic Garden and shopping in Marylebone. My husband says I have a sickness. Maybe he’s slightly jealous? Is it possible to love a place more than a person?
It’s Valentine’s Day. What’s your love story? Let me know below.