There’s something about London. Here, a local discusses her ever-growing fondness for her hometown.
In London, I can be anyone I want to be. I can formulate my identity and self-image around anything that takes my fancy, whoever I want to feel like creating that day. London, more than any other city I have known, plies you with an incalculable number of choices, options and ideas.
London gives you options you didn’t even know you wanted. In this magical and diverse city, I’ve dangled upside down on a flying trapeze in Regents Park, I’ve brunched at a Shoreditch hotspot that has a secret bar you access by walking through a Smeg fridge, I’ve visited the Harry Potter highlights like a tourist and not a lifelong resident. I’ve been on an unfathomable amount of first dates on the Southbank, visited several city farms, watched the sunrise from a skyscraper on my birthday over exquisite coffee, befriended dog walkers in cemeteries and taken part in a London-wide treasure hunt with 70 work colleagues.
Despite London being an urban sprawl, I can fulfill my love of adventure at one of the climbing centers, kayaking along the Thames or even scaling an ice wall with an ax and crampons at Vertical Chill.
Being ethical is easy in London. No one has a car, so we all do our bit for the environment and the Santander cycle scheme makes it even easier. There are plenty of choices for vegans and now there is even a zero waste, packaging free supermarket in Dalston. London is the best place to march for the causes I care about, and to find projects to volunteer with.
On the flip side, if someone wants to mass consume and go shopping in multinational chains, London has everything they could dream of, too.
Whatever product, service, or identity I have sought out, London has always thrown back exactly what I need.
It isn’t just delights like teetotal raves before work or having breakfast at Brixton prison that keeps London diverse, it’s the melting pot of unique humans that keeps me faithful to this city.
With over 300 languages spoken in London, there are so many opportunities to discover other cultures and ways of thinking. I have gone to watch fireworks for Diwali, I’ve practiced my Spanish with a stranger on the bus, and been invited to the ‘meet your Muslim neighbor’ day at my local Mosque. There is a strong curiosity and acceptance between nationalities and religions.
There can certainly be anonymity in London (which comes in handy when I’m popping out to buy bread in my slippers) but no one talks about the real sense of community some of the neighborhoods have.
Every neighborhood has its own beating heart, an identity of its own. The people of Hackney are unrecognizable from the people in my own area, Thornton Heath.
We all have a leaning towards North or South of the river. North Londoners tend to be hip, trendy and forward thinking. But all over south London, the community spirit shines through.
My heart belongs to the areas with a villagey feel – Herne Hill, Crystal Palace, Dulwich, Brockley. Parks, weekend markets, stunning houses, quirky coffee shops, thriving local economies give these communities their power.
A perfect London Sunday for me is browsing for second-hand records and books in the eclectic stalls of Herne Hill market followed by a brisk walk in Brockwell Park. Contrary to popular belief, people do say hello to one another.
The edgier areas of South London, like Thornton Heath, may not have the amenities but my God do they have the drive and spirit. From park clean-ups to flower planting to campaigning against fly tipping, my little corner of London is doing its absolute best to overcome its challenges and become something to be proud of. There is a sense of solidarity.
I’m so proud to be a Londoner, and despite my love of travel, nature and escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, my heart is truly and unequivocally wedded to London, and I can’t bring myself to leave.