My first time in London was the summer of 2007. I had just finished up working with a group in Birmingham and after a short train ride, the capital became my play thing. For almost a month I walked the roads from Islington to Southwark in search of the nooks and crannies that I'd read about. To me, London was a thing of fiction. A city that until then, only lived in movies and dusty pages. It took me almost a week to appreciate the way the heat made people slow down, if only for a second.
Which Museum Today?
In the morning's I would take a different section of a museum and experience it fully. The Victoria & Albert museum, with its emphasis on history and design, quickly became my favorite. I went back at least six times that month, each time stopping to take in the beauty of the Chihuly chandelier. Every time that I went something new popped out to me. I went through at least four Moleskine's that month as the London summer spoke to me.
Sitting by the Thames, probably after just eating a Magnum bar, I wrote poetry and dreamed of music dancing across the water. I was 23 and times were simple. The financial crisis hadn't hit yet and the world was an oyster for me to crack. As the tourists streamed by around me, hurrying to see the next sight, I was content. Time was a luxury that I could spare. And spare I did, spending every moment I could inside the Tate Modern, walking along the Millennnium Bridge and listening to Coldplay's "Politik" as rain gently fell. I met friends, wrote music and dreamed what my life would be like after university.
The Slow Bus Home
One of my favorite memories in London is riding the night bus from Piccadilly Circus to my stop in Highbury. It was a slow process every night, trudging through Holborn, up through Clerkenwell, past Angel and finally home in Islington. Depending on the night of the week, the passengers changed from shift workers, students and regular Joes to semi-drunk college students, soon to be drunk shift workers and kids smoking pot in the back. I was never disappointed with the rotating cast of characters, so much so that I barely ever took the tube home. Many nights I'd hop off at Angel and walk up Upper Street past the nice restaurants, Australian-themed bars and coffee shops. The world was small to me and this was the only way I knew to stretch it. It also made me keenly aware of the setting of Ed Sheeran's music video for "A Team."
Sometimes I'd wear headphones and explore new music, but mostly I let the sound of the chippies and random kids wash over me. My ears were finally becoming accustomed to the accent and every new word made my brain light up. I was a sponge that couldn't get enough.
All Good Things
Seven years later I would return to London again, this time on my first international trip with a person I was dating. So after a few days and many failed plans, almost seven years to the day that I first stepped foot in London, I asked my wife to marry me. It wasn't the perfect proposal, nestled in the Festival Gardens in the shadow of St. Paul's Cathedral after a long day of walking. We were both starving and on our way to meet friends so as the bell tolled ten, I got down and asked her to be my wife. It was the scariest thing I've ever done, and there's no other city in the world that would do for such a special occasion.
We continue to return to London, despite the weather, terrorist attacks and its impending exit from the EU. We return because we have to. Because it beckons us. We return to remember. We return to forget. We return to begin again. For us, London is home, even if we've never lived there.