Most of us, London dwellers, weren’t born here. Brits and foreigners come to London for jobs and other opportunities and settle here probably because of what London has to offer: a fairly unique blend of business and recreational opportunities with its rich museums, art, theatre and music scene, green parks, a healthy addiction to sport and, more recently, its vibrant culinary culture.
I was not born in London yet I call myself a Londoner, having lived in the city for over a decade. For me London is a very special place because of its cosmopolitan citizens, the amazing opportunities it offers (if only I had the time..) and its various “pockets” I can never fully explore. What’s more, it is remarkable how your perception of London may alter if your personal or professional circumstances change.
I have a friend. Let’s call her Sally. Sally was a corporate lawyer at one of London’s leading city law firms. One day she did not make partner and decided to move to a media company as a legal council. At the new place, based in Shoreditch, she found she started to dress differently, hang out in hip cafes, lunch at pop-up restaurants and participate in previously unimaginable activities such as hula-hoop marathons, shopping at fashion jewellery swap stalls and bringing home-made lunch to work. Before she knew it, the City became an outlandish place with its pin-striped suits and overpriced wine bars, whilst her life got a lot more vibrant.
Recently I read a novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo, which tells a story of a Chinese girl coming to London to learn English. It was a revealing experience to see London with someone else’s eyes yet many a times I recognised myself in the novel’s anecdotes. There is an unmistakable London cab driver, a stereotypical fog (or, rather, the absence of it) and an overwhelming theme of discovery of London’s gems: independent cinemas, a Chinatown joint, a walk in the park (made special by a certain companion).
It made me think that very often during the hassle of commute and in-between weekend appointments, it is all too easy to lose the magic the of the city we live in and miss out on the experiences we only afford ourselves when we go on holiday to other places. It only takes a moment, a left turn, a chance encounter so do yourself a favour and do something different to experience London afresh.
London In Her Eyes, a Ladies Who Impress celebration takes place on Monday, 17 June, featuring interviews with Jenny Dawson, Katherine Grainger and Xiaolu Guo.