Oh London, you are stuff of dreams. A city where Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the Chicken Shop down the road and the Beatles once threw up in the gutter outside your flat. Well, probably. London is so full of history and kick ass historical figures that one of those is almost certainly right. I get so used to the magical and somewhat mythical London of my dreams, that sometimes the reality comes as a bit of a shock. Your brain sees Big Ben and gets tricked into thinking life is a movie, and then reality bites. Hence me on Christmas Day overjoyed that it was snowing outside, only to realise that it was not snow, it was just a flock of pigeons literally losing their shit.
The longer I live in London the more I come to treasure these ‘reality bites’ moments. I used to see them as little pockets of disappointment, like the time I found out that unlike Bridget Jones, no one can afford to live in a one bed flat near Borough Market (seriously, to afford that she must have been doing something niche with those granny pants on the side). Each new soul crushing discovery was like the London of my dreams was being chipped away to reveal a dirty & crowded beast that stole all my money.
But the longer I live here, to mis-quote Shrek, the reality is like pealing back the layers of an onion to get to its heart. What is at the centre I can only guess, but rather than spiraling down to disappointment, each dose of reality just reveals a more intriguing and homelike London. I London that I kinda love.
The flock of shitty pigeons? Well yes I would have loved a white Christmas, but time has given me the knowledge that London throws a massive tantrum when it snows; given this knowledge I was happy for the pigeons. Seriously, tubes stop running, an almost certain city wide shortage of grit, children starving, Tesco shortages, general panic and mayhem – oh yes London in the snow is something special. Knowing that the magical didn’t tell the whole story is magic in itself, I feel like I am part of the story.
Side note, I saw that a train was delayed the other day because of strong sunshine….
The Bridget Jones Borough Market shock that in my first year made me shed a tear. Now? Now I know the areas in London that I want to live, I know that Borough although convenient (and 800% out of my price range) is also hell on earth when you throw two thousand tourists at it. Oh and I know that Maltby markets are totally better than Borough in any case. I know London now, that knowledge and feeling of belonging kicks the ‘reality bites’ to the curb leaving a happy smugness in its wake.
Of course my flocking pigeons are far less sexy to movie makers. The Hugh Grant speech in Love Actually would have had a lot less impact if it talked about transport shortcuts, remembering your umbrella and knowing the best place for pulled pork on a Friday night. But hey, those little things convexly make London magical, a thing of mythology come to life. The reality bites make it your London.