The only thing that comes as close to good as calling London my home is returning to London and slipping back in as if I’d never been away.
I arrived back last week, sat in my beloved Patisserie Valerie on Soho’s Old Compton Street and began listing what it is about London, why this place is so much more immediate than other cities–sucking me in without hesitation.
I love it the moment when the tube doors gasp and suck closed; when the train picks up speed and my thoughts get left behind as we whoosh along the tracks. Nothing has to be done on the tube; I’m just going, not doing.
I like pushing out into, along and finally through the crowds, thoughts focused only on movement.
I love that its OK to look down, never making eye contact. In London I can slip in and out and nobody bats an eyelid.
I love the fierce ambition and the casual successes. Names tossed off in converstation; places I grew up seeing on TV just backdrops to my own drama.
I love the flashes of hate: brief moments that are stoked with a glare or crossed words, but leave the memory as soon as they do the body. There’s no need for apologies but no grudges either. We just keep moving.
I love how handsome the men are on Old Compton Street–gym hardened bodies that are trained to keep up–and the film company runner that dash through Soho with one eye on the next step up the ladder. I love how every single woman has her own style–I don’t think any other city can compete with London women’s fashion.
The languages: Polish layered over Italian, French, Japanese, Arabic… but I still just love hearing cockney from the old ladies in Hackney.
The choice: Before my eye has left one shop window, the next is already flirting with me. There is nothing I couldn’t find in London.
But what I love most is that every street I walk down holds an individual memory. I might be anonymous to London, but not so she to me.