Well, we’re back. We have had a successful trip to London which I consider to be quite an achievement. We saw all the things that we set out to see and the children all behaved beautifully. They walked for miles and never complained once. They soaked the places up and were interested in everything that we showed them.
On the way home, I asked each of them in turn if London was what they had imagined. The older two commented on the sheer number of people. Oxford Street at 8 pm was busier than Leeds at lunchtime. Amusingly, the youngest said that he thought that London would be black because of the fire. Bless him.
And what about me? Was London as I remembered? Well, I still have the basic geography in my head and the tube stops all came flooding back. But what struck me as odd was that the first time ever I could really understand why people wanted to live there.
When I was there in my early twenties, I enjoyed myself but I always knew that my time there was finite. I was in London because I knew I never would go back again and I wanted to experience it just so that I could say that I had.
This wasn’t because I had a crystal ball for gazing at my future. It was more a result of how well I knew myself at that time. I was a northern lass. I couldn’t imagine ever settling somewhere that wasn’t populated by northern people (apart from somewhere sunny of course). I had a whole range of prejudices about the south of England based mainly on the idea that all southerners seemed to think that northerners were either badly educated or stupid or both.
To be fair to myself, this was a pretty accurate representation of the opinions of those on my degree course who had deigned to venture beyond Watford Gap. They wore their southern accents like a badge of honour and never managed to totally eradicate the sneer from their tone even though they were now living amongst the enemy.
I, as a fresh faced idealist, found this disdain hard to take on board and it coloured my views fundamentally for many years to follow. Even when I was older and spent a lot of time in London with work, it never left me. London was for visiting but not for keeps.
So my attitude over recent days has thrown me off balance somewhat. I found myself going up escalators reading all the posters of shows that I wanted to see. I was astounded by the number of shops that still hadn’t got a presence in Leeds. But most of all I was delighted by the fact that everyone has their own identity in London.No one looks like anyone else. You don’t seem to find whole swarms of people all wearing variations of the same outfit. Whilst fashion was clearly being nodded to, everyone had their own take on which bits to adopt. This kind of devil may care individualism is sorely lacking in my neck of the woods.
But it wasn’t something I have given much thought to before. Of course I know that my town is very limited in its outlook. There are lots of big fish in a very small pond and the pecking order is clear for all to see. I have felt trapped by its atmosphere for many years, spurred on I suspect, by the fact that I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to. So maybe that’s why the bright lights of the big city suddenly look so appealing.
And this time I was aware of the buzz that I have heard people talk about so many times before. I could feel that excitement that comes with knowing that you are at the centre of things. That’s not something that I’m likely to find in Ilkley either!
Friends of my parents moved to London a few years back. They just sold up their beautiful home to buy something modest but central near the river. I thought they were mad at the time but suddenly their decision looks inspired.