You know, I used to give London a bad rap, but I feel it deserves some long overdue appreciation, so here's the list:
Things I love about London
1. The media. Okay, it's famous for its tabloids. And yes, you can buy one for 20p that has a page 4 girl without many clothes on in every issue one of whom is currently posing with 2 10p coins over her nipples on the sides of buses, BUT, there is a RANGE of quality broadsheets, with a RANGE of political outlooks. Murdoch doesn't own them all, though he does own one. but that leaves me with a choice that actually includes a paper that doesn't sensationalise homosexuality or malign all muslims, that DOES have serious commentary, that has an excellent review section where you can learn so much about the writing world AND is actually written in grammatical English!
2. The Pashleys. Okay, just creeping back into fashion now after probably forty years in remission. But black three speed bicycles with a low bar you can step over and wicker baskets on the front. I saw one chained to a railing on the steps of a house on grotty polluted Ladbroke Grove and my heart lifted - it felt like all I needed to do was hop on and I'd be transported to a village, or a car free city.
3. The theatre. Hundreds and hundreds of professional theatres. Old, modern, tragedy, comedy, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Musical theatre, 'serious' theatre, pantomimes, the possibility of being a groundling at the Globe, opera - several opera companies and opera houses, festivals (there is a mime festival! There is an Australian film festival!) I know you can get this in Melbourne, but you know, you can see a good play or musical any night of any week in London and you could see one every week for a year and not exhaust the possibilities.
4. The parks. Yes, London's crowded and polluted. But big parks. Some wild and rambly like Hampstead Heath, some manicured like Kensington Gardens, all hundreds of years old with enormous old trees with beautiful leaves you can set your calendar by, and people using them all year round, shorts or overcoats, bikes or rollerblades or kites, on foot or on picnic blankets.
5. The buses. Red double deckers with big wide front windows. Need I say more? I catch one to work, when I'm not cycling.
6. The coats. Fabulous overcoats.
7. The seasons, and the way people dress for them. You musn't wear autumn clothes in winter, or spring clothes in Autumn. Autumn fashions are of warm, comforting winter fabrics, but summer styles, like shorts, but with lots of layering, indicating that summer is gone, and winter is on the way, and we can embrace it.. Spring clothes, on the other hand, will be light and floaty materials, keeping warm, but transitioning towards summer fabrics. It's a way to distract yourself from the fact that winter is so long, I get that. But it works.
8a. It's the hub of the world. therefore, half your friends and relations pass through, sooner or later, and pay you a visit.
8b. It's the hub of the world. It's the most racially diverse city in the world. And you see representatives of all those races regularly in professional jobs (okay, I don't want to idealise - there ARE a lot of black bus drivers, for example, and a helluva lot of whitefellas in Meri's company...), but it's not like in Australia. And it's great for me. It shakes up a lot of assumptions I didn't even know I held.
9. The politics. The leader of the CONSERVATIVE party is a big greeny. He has watertanks and a wind powered generator on his multi million pound house. Okay, the windmill had to come down due to planning regs but still. And yet more beautiful, the papers and the electorate are savvy enough to know it's all a big stunt, and to ridicule him for cycling to parliament with a chauffeur driven car behind him, carrying his documents!
10. That brings me to the humour. The irony. The endless self deprication and satire.
11. And back to the media. who really do their job. thouroughly, investigatively, entertainingly, and did i mention in well written English in at least one paper.
12. The accents. I may 'ave mentioned Por'obello mahkit accents? But there's accents from everywhere, from a colleague who says thoomp when she means thump, because she was born in Manchester, to another who speaks broad, rapid, often incomprehensible Glaswegian, to two from France, who really DON'T pronounce their aitches, to the Aussie or American on the street who makes me wince with their broadness and loudness, cos I'm such a snob, to the Received Pronunciation practised by a certain member of staff which makes me wince too, cos I'm such a reverse snob, to my own, which occasionally picks up a London inflection unexpectedly, to Nigerians who also don't pronounce their hs, to, to... It's no wonder English literature, from Bronte to Rowling, is so obsessed wiht mimicking accents in phonemes. Want teh go teh visit 'Agrid anyone?
13. Back to the politics. Did I mention that I was married? And that this is legal? And that it is against anti discrimination laws to stop me and Meri from adopting children.
14. On that same one. I know they went to Iraq. Big scary mess there, no denying it. But, unlike someone else I could name, it led, among other factors, to the end of the PM's premiership.
15. The best kept secrets the local area: yoga classes by donation, no amount too small, in a beautiful space that reminds me of the women's circus, three quid a pop writers' workshops - did I mention we are self publishing an anthology?, the walk along the canal behind a big cemetery with gorgeous trees and vines and plants.
16. Time Out entertainment listings. Totally mainstream, THEREFORE includes a gay and lesbian section every week!
17. The tourists. Weird, but I like 'em, cos they come from all over the world and a surprising number of them speak German, so I can eavesdrop. Plus I get to feel superior for not being a tourist.
18. The bookshops. Everywhere. Notting Hill has the Travel Bookshop and a cookery bookshop on the same street. Another travel bookshop in Covent Garden, two foreign language bookshops in the West End. Gay's the Word in Kings Cross(haven't been there yet.) Also, international newspapers on stands outside every newsagency.
Though I miss the fresh air and sunshine, sometimes I've even found myself comparing Melbourne unfavourably. Not fair, I know. Perhaps I need to make a list of the things I miss about Melbs. But I do feel so LEBENDIG (alive) here. Of course, that may not continue to be the case as the dark half of the year closes in... By the way, I'm sure I could make an equally long list of things I DON'T like about this place. Maybe the lesson is to look for the best bits, wherever you live. Oh, dear, I risk ending on a moral, like an AESOP fable. Maybe I should learn from an earlier moral: don't write really long blog entries!