Because no matter how impractical, I am always compelled to take the longest possible route from point A to B. In a city so hectic it seems the only natural reaction is to live slowly, to take it all in, to wander and absorb. There is art, history, a heritage of something lost and permanent around every corner. The road less traveled (and more scenic) is definitely one the better.
Because of the countless magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover.
Because here I can be anything and anyone. Excuse me, are you an art student? he asked as I snapped photos at Baker Street Station. Be still my tortured artist’s heart. Why yes, yes I am, replied the me from a parallel universe.
Because I could be rushing to get to an after-office business meeting and then wham! out of the blue appears Saint Paul’s Cathedral in all its illuminated gigantic glory. It is so tall and magnificent that you have to crane your neck all the way back like a penguin to see its gorgeous cupola. And even though I’m running extremely late I still stop to take a photo (or 10) because things that take your breath away are definitely worth being late for.
Because books are still beloved here. Billboard adverts on walls, in newspapers and trains premiere book releases like they are movies. And all around the city Londoners still read – in the tube, at bus stops, in airplanes, parks and cafes.
Because running through the biting rain without an umbrella at 11pm on a cold winter night is the most beautiful memory of the day.
Because Monday midnight tequilas with a girl friend (in magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover) could totally be a weekly ritual if you wanted.
Because one day you can meet a humble street artist out of the blue who has the power to change the way you see the world and in turn change your life.
Because window shopping can be more delightful and magical than any theme park or carnival or drunken night out combined. The classical music, the moody lighting, the shiny accoutrements that could adorn a kitchen table, a desk, a finger. I’ve never longed for material things so much but not for possession’s sake but to be reminded on an ordinary day of the power of beauty. Frivolous displays, ornate and impractical. It is the impractical life that makes this place so wonderful. Who wants practical when you can have magic?
Because here the people you meet, the friendships you foster, the conversations you partake can make spaces in your heart and mind that you never thought possible. Over brunch, lunch, drinks and coffee you converse in exclamation marks over the stuff of dreams: Baroque art, Spanish vs. English colonizers, travel to Antananarivo vs. Wen Hai, moving countries and continents for love, Milanese cafes and baked nutella balls, hezbollah in Lebanon, the wisdom of dogs, yin and yang, open loops, ancient Japanese erotica, travel, music, dreams, loves and losses. With this kind of stimulus, it is no wonder that the soul has no other choice but to explode into a million shining stars.
And because if London were a person, we’d have fallen madly, deeply, ridiculously in love, broken up in a hot mess and eventually (miraculously) become lifetime BFFs. This is, in fact, true of my relationship with Londontown. It was my refuge from heartache, my witness to sins big and small, my mirror of self loathing and then self acceptance, my window to life altering encounters, the portal to my truest self. It has seen the best and worst of who I am and what I’m capable of. When I had to leave it years ago, I coped with hatred. But today there is no pain or unrequited longing. London will always be home. It is love. Love for what was and for what it inspires today. It is the greatest city in the world.