Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The End of My Affair with London

I realized I'm spending my final week in London. I am a bit relieved to leave this city, in as much as I had a wonderful time here. First, allow me to explain why I seem to have a love-hate relationship with London.

The best bits... London is never boring. You have to be intrinsically super boring to get bored in London where a million things are happening all at the same time. I most enjoyed the city's landscape: its parks, museums, theaters, canals, and bridges.

For instance, I'm often entranced by the old buildings made of bricks or marble. There's something organic about how they are crammed together, often with diverging styles. London's buildings escape a sense of uniformity because (at least to my untrained eye) they seem to come from different periods. Because there are so many of these remarkable edifices vying for one's attention, they are often overlooked or just simply overshadowed by relatively grander buildings.

I'm just taking the buildings of the city as an example of its charm. There are of course the numerous parks and squares that are full of their own character. I like Regent Park and Primrose Hill for instance. And then having lived mostly in Bloomsbury, I enjoyed hanging out in its many squares in the summer.

If it's too cold to be outdoors, one heads to the free and well-heated museums. My favorites are the National Gallery (where I always discover new masterpieces in every visit) and the Tate Modern. The Courtauld Gallery and Saatchi Gallery also have their gems. And if one is patient enough to queue for a day ticket, watching a great play or musical in the West End is not always beyond reach.

While I have written more about London as a space so far, there is also something to be said about the Londoners themselves. It's remarkable how multi-cultural London is. Oftentimes I find my self not hearing a word of English on the bus whereas the melange of Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and, yes, Tagalog always make me feel like I'm in a UN convention.

And even if London is a very busy city, the people are surprisingly polite to each other. The endless exchanges of 'thank you', 'you're welcome', and 'I'm sorry' is admirable for such a densely packed and fast paced city. And far from the stereotype of the dour British character, on the contrary I find them very approachable and welcoming.

So let's get to the things I don't like about this city. Mainly, I still can't get over the fact that everything costs a gazillion pounds here. Thank god for the 3-pound meals at Tesco. Even going to a fastfood such as McDonalds or Burger King costs like a decent meal in a good restaurant in Bangkok or Manila. Even public transport is outrageously expensive, thus, I'm at the mercy of buses.

Also, I imagine most young people here living on an average wage spending a significant amount of that on rent alone. And then you add the council taxes, TV license, and other shit. I don't see that as ever justifiable.

But hey, that's the cost of living in one of the most exciting places in the world. So in as much as London never runs out of things to experience, you need quite a lot of money to do just that.

I understand that the wages here would somehow make up for the cost of living, but I still hear people complaining about rising prices, especially rent. And with an increasingly competitive job market, finding a good job that would match one's lifestyle remains a challenge. I'd only be constantly frustrated living here if I could not afford much of what I want to do, say, regular visits to the theater.

So saying good bye to London is bittersweet in that I'm passionately in love with it but I know it's a relationship that's not sustainable.

I have to say though that just like a good love affair, I have great memories of the city. It embraced me warmly and nurtured my senses, even giving me orgasms I'd remember for the rest of my life.


Was Once said...

Perhaps, you leaving is actually saving you from a life of stress? A very powerful gift this holiday.

Kate said...

I had missed this blog. I feel sad for you leaving such an amazing place like London but am excited for your next adventure. what's next? Bangkok? Hope we can bump into each other again.


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