Me in my not-so-natural-but-still-nice habitat which was taken by Holly
Groggily and sleepy, we got up early to get ready for our day-out in London. My friend Holly and I ate our breakfast and went off for our day of market-hunting and London-exploring. London is such a strange, dear, manic, and yet safe place for me. London and I, we have a complicated relationship. I hated living in London as a shy and scared nine-year-old with the expanding jungle of houses and buildings, traffic and buses, and hormonal weather. I hated living in a place where I felt out-of-place, a foreigner. London was just too big, and I too small. I was amazed with everything around me but wasn’t able to enjoy it. In the 15 months that I lived there, I wasn’t just discovering England but also London. The children that I played with weren’t just English but they also identified themselves as Londoners. I was not, and still probably not, a Londoner.
Over the years though, London has grown on me. The energy seems more exciting than terrifying, and I don’t really know London that well which adds a air of mystery to the place where I once lived. I’m not sure if you can really know London by just visits but you can try at least to know a place.
Still I’m not sure how to approach this grand city at times. You have to learn to follow the bustle, the energy and the city does not care if you are drained or not. Recently I read a poem (or rather watched it on YouTube) which made me think of the London that I knew then and the London that I know now. It’s hard to find a balance between the then and the now, especially if the then is dear and romanticized. At times I walk around London and can see anxious nine-year-old me, terrified that I would lose sight of my family or friends or whoever I was with and then would have to make my way in a city which I did not want to be in. This may sound more dramatic than it actually is. Reminders of the past only last for a second and I’m happy to report that so far I haven’t been too negatively affected by them so there you go. Old cities that are familiar to you and yet not, are full of old ghosts of you and of people you knew. Besides I have learned to walk with confidence, not because I know what’s going to happen next but because there is nothing else to do. You got to keep moving forward.
So what do you do with old cities? What do you do with London, the iconic capital of the country that I’ve inherited? I usually try to explore something new. Holly and I wandered around the Portobello Market for hours. We passed stalls full of doorknobs and stalls full of antique cameras. We looked at clothes, soft fabrics, jewelry, vegetables, fruit, cheese, and bread. We made friends with the people who ran the popcorn stand and generally made friends with anyone who was friendly to us. It helped that I had Holly with me who has the gift of making friends with anyone and everyone. I bought postcards from a Japanese stationary store and then a candle from another Japanese store (got to love those Japanese stores). It was all refreshingly new and wonderful and just what I needed. I realize now only later, but not too late, that I actually love London and its markets and people and bustle and energy and that maybe London and me weren’t so complicated after all.