A City For All Seasons – by Fiona Grant
I love Melbourne. I could go on and on about the wonders of one of the world’s most liveable cities. And I usually do. The fantastic food, the sporting events, such a commitment to the arts and oh the coffee! Yet, I’ve called London home for the past 7 years. Well, my mother did always say I was contrary. London is a city of contrasts and as any Brit will tell you, London may be in Britain but it is not Britain. It is something else entirely.
London was not quite the place that Richard Curtis films had led me to believe. My Bridget Jones-esque job in media definitely didn’t allow sufficient funds for Bridget’s delightfully quirky central London flat and alas I’ve still not met a proper foppish English gent, certainly not one who is charmingly awkward and unaware of how good looking he is.
In fact, most unlike a Richard Curtis rom-com, London can be an unwieldy and unfriendly place. You will be forcibly shoved for standing on the wrong side of the escalator and it’s practically forbidden to talk to a stranger on public transport no matter how far your face is wedged into their armpit. However, join the mad dash to catch the last tube on a Friday or Saturday night and suddenly everyone is your friend, with laughs and chips being shared in equal measure.
London is so often portrayed as grey and dreary but it’s summer now and something wonderful happens when summer and sun collide – this big and bustling city becomes a beach town without a beach as everyone takes to the outdoors, drinking and laughing from early afternoon to late evening, decamping to any of the beautiful London parks and peeling off as much clothing as possible.
A recent sojourn to Regent’s Park on one such perfect summer’s night found me impressed at the unashamed confidence in which one girl walked along the path clad only in a white bikini (somewhat perplexing as there is nowhere to swim in Regent’s Park) while a middle aged portly man seemed relaxed enough to have stripped to his y-fronts while enjoying a chat with his friends.
In this way London can be so accepting; non-conformity and individuality is celebrated. As a young fashion student once told me – New York is all about the labels, Paris is all about being tasteful, but London is all about doing something different, being yourself. You got that skirt on sale at Zara and that belt for £5 from Primark? All the better. This is the city where Rhianna catches the tube and Kate Moss shops at Topshop. Respect.
It’s pretty obvious London is not always sunshine and Pimms. It’s glorious when it is; there is an appreciation of summer and sunshine that you just don’t find in a city like Melbourne, which is generally spoilt for both. Of course this appreciation for good weather is largely because we know we will soon face another numbingly cold winter. Unfortunately winter seems to happen every year. I do wish they would do something about that.
Though there is something about celebrating Christmas in winter which just feels right. Walking out to Regents St and Oxford St when the Christmas lights are on is a breathtaking moment every time and I never tire of it. And maybe that’s it, London has so many “catch your breath” moments – wandering through streets steeped in history, the red of the buses and phone booths contrasting so beautifully against the dreary grey weather, marvelling at the Regent St buildings down to the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus and then finding yourself in Trafalgar Square. Yes, just like you are in a movie.
And that’s where I find my Richard Curtis movie moment, walking along the Thames as Big Ben bongs late at night, St Pauls and the rest of the city perfectly lit in the background, wrapped up warmly in scarf and coat with my breath clearly visible from the cold. This is the romance of London. And perhaps the reason I am still here.
Huh, would you look at that? I’ve managed to wax lyrical about the weather for most of this piece. I truly am a Londoner.