(A little less than) a month left of London life...

Posted by JSYL on Thursday, June 19, 2008 in ,
Summer has officially arrived in London. We're nearing the end, friends.

I wish I'd been a more dutiful blogger in the past six months but it's not too surprising, as there are often days when I can't even remember what I've done in the last 24 hours, let alone the last week. I spent an entire day lounging under a tree in Regent's Park with a friend of mine, eating strawberries and listening to music. We left only when we absolutely had to, our speech slower, sunglasses perched on our heads, eyes droopy and almost drowsy with this relaxed, mellow vibe that a day without watches, filled only with shameless self-indulgence, provides.

With the end of classes and living on campus has come a string of similarly gloriously unstructured days and seemingly endless nights. It gets dark at about 10pm, allowing the phrase "The night is young" to be batted around much more than usual.

Looking over my early entries buzzing with Exchange Student Enthusiasm, I realise now I've come full circle in my relationship with this great city. By that I don't mean I love London any less. But like any other love, it's changed. It's no longer irrational or head-over-heels. Having lived here for the better half of a year, I understand what makes it tick: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

You see, London-ites are like members of one big dysfunctional extended family. Sometimes it's like everyone around you is some distantly related third cousin. The kind you've seen at family dinners for years but never talked to because you weren't sure you'd have anything to say.

In London, there's a greater chance the said cousin will be a pleasant surprise, not nearly as awkward or boring as you'd previously suspected. They're the genuinely awesome, quirky people who you love bumping into in the street, chatting to about something random for about 5 minutes and leaving, feeling a little chirpier. Like the drunk/high on crack man sat slumped over at a bus stop in East London the other night, who cheerfully called out as I walked past, "Good night Queen. Beautiful girl." Or the old man who saw me holding two huge bouquets of flowers in Covent Garden and bent down to examine them closer as I walked past, "Those are beautiful, aren't they?" to which I agreed, pausing to let him smell them, and moved on.

But then there's those people you instantly regret talking to, who make you cringe and eye the emergency exit signs out the corner of your eye so you can make a hasty escape ASAP. The kind of cousin you tell yourself is only related to you by marriage, grew up in Adelaide or Tasmania, and bears no identical DNA of yours whatsoever. Like the balding potbellied man who made room for me to walk in front of him at a crowded Tube stop, to which I said thank you, only to hear, "No, you first, Ping Pong" and a chorus of beer breathy laughter. Or the sleazy guys who yell out "Ni hao" or "Konichiwa" in the street with a gleeful smile plastered over their smug little faces as though they're really proud of themselves for being so worldly and culturally aware [Insert extra dose of sarcasm here]. Or even the friend-of-a-friend who asked me, in all seriousness what the difference between Japan and China was, and what their "beef" was all about.

I'm convinced (or perhaps just stupidly optimistic) that there are more of the former than the latter in the box of chocolates that is London. But after a million random encounters (too many for this blog), I've passed that phase where you think everything is perfect, that nothing could go wrong and that you feel sorry for the poor suckers living anywhere else in the world. I soon found myself turning on to "I-Never-Noticed-This-Before-But-Now-That-I-Have-It-Really-Bugs-Me" Street, which soon became "I-can't-remember-any-of-the-good-stuff-what-am-I-doing-here" Avenue.

Luckily, that was a short road that has inevitably led to where I'm at now: a dead end that has no name.

I love London for all the reasons I mentioned in January and too many more to count. But I've discovered that all the wonderful things you can only find in a big city all come at a price.



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