Tired of London, Tired of Life

Tired of London, tired of life.

Samuel Johnson

I make no secret of my love/hate relationship with London. Six years after moving here I am still amazed at just how much goes on, I still discover new areas to go and roads to cycle/run, and I am still grateful to live somewhere with such a selection of music. I have never lived anywhere that accepts and celebrates such a diversity of cultures.

Even with all of this, I am tired of London.

This is a difficult city for a well-off but by no means wealthy middle-class family. Almost everything is expensive. In central London, real estate prices have become detached from reality. Prices in the suburbs aren’t much more reasonable, especially in areas that “tick all the boxes.” We’ll soon spend half of one of our wages on childcare.

On a personal level, the list of gripes is long. The noise of cars, busses, scooters, trains, tubes, and worst of all the constant roar of jet engines as a plane passes overhead every 30 seconds on their final approach to Heathrow. The overt aggressiveness. I can no longer take full-advantage of the nightlife. The winters are dreadful. I often feel isolated even though I’m surrounded by millions of people.

I miss the mountains and the outdoor lifestyle. I miss the small town attitude of being able to say "hi" to random people and that being OK. I wish we had outside space where our kids could play.

I feel worn down.

Yet last night I felt a love for London I haven’t felt in a long time. My friend Biggs played his "eclectic electric" set at a local venue called Off the Cuff. I mistakenly arrived 3 hours before he went on. I didn't know anybody. I didn't even know where Biggs was. I went to the bar, grabbed a pint, put on a brave face, and asked a group with a free chair if they minded if I perched. They welcomed me to sit down and join in their conversation. I did the same with a couple more groups over the next 3 hours. All the groups welcomed me in, all the groups wanted to know my story. I wanted to hear their stories too. Even though there were only 20-25 of us, the atmosphere was great. The opener played a driving set and I was in the mood to dance. Biggs came on and gave his “eclectic” set, which was uplifting and the tempo was perfect for a good shake. A small group of took to heart “dance like no one is watching” and had a good laugh. After the set ended, several of us hung around until the bar kindly asked us to move along because they wanted to close. On the way home I ended up chatting with a random group of people hanging out at the railway station.

I had 4 pints, was drunk, and knew the morning would be brutal. I didn’t care because I just had the best night out in London that I have had in ages. To me, this was London at its finest; local, multi-cultural, welcoming, authentic, and fun.

I wantneed more nights like this if we are going to stay in London for the foreseeable future. Nights like this help me feel connected to the city and others within it. Nights like this help me feel connected with myself.

For the record, the morning, and most of today, was brutal. I am no longer a 4-pint-a-night kind of person. Next time, stop at 3.