Culture

For the Love of London

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Photo by Scott Mead
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Elizabeth Bennet discovers the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Whatever the trip away, there is always one phrase I look forward to hearing on my return: “we are now making our descent into London.” Every time I fly over the snaking river, sprawling parks, and the ever-changing skyline of skyscraper buildings, I take comfort in knowing that I’m home. I was born and brought up in London and have lived here for the majority of my life. Our capital city may get a bad rep – too expensive, too busy, too unfriendly – and while it isn’t without its fair share of problems, I still believe it’s one of the greatest cities on earth. Something I had forgotten until I left for three months earlier this year.

When my relationship ended at the beginning of January, I embraced the Eat, Pray, Love cliche and packed my bags for a solo trip to Asia. I was desperate to get away from London and the constant reminders of my past life that were following me round like a bad smell. I went on a retreat in Sri Lanka, trekked in the Himalayas of Nepal and explored technicolour India and its historic palaces. It was everything I hoped for. But one thing surprised me more than anything else: how much I ended up missing London. The green spaces, picture-perfect architecture and that quintessential attitude Londoners possess – all things you easily take for granted.

Arriving back at the beginning of June and the start of what felt like a never-ending heatwave also helped the transition period. With a climate so often grey, nothing boosts our collective mood better than a spell of sunshine. Throw into the mix the excitement of the World Cup, Wimbledon, and of course, Love Island, and I found myself met with a mood of optimism and joy. Walking through Soho on a weekday evening and seeing colleagues spill into the streets, rosé in hand, and watching parks fill up on weekends with impromptu picnics, BBQs and rounders games, reminded me of why I’m so lucky to live in a city like London. In fact, it even made me think, why go on holiday when you have so much on our doorstep.

This summer I’m making the most of my hometown in its finest season. I’ll be cooling off in the oasis that is Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond, walking the canal with a stop for a pub garden Pimms, eating my way around the many street food markets from Brixton to Borough, and ogling antiques with a coffee on Golborne Road. As Samuel Johnson famously said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Sometimes you just need a little break to realise this.