Having lived in London pretty much continuously (bar a few months away here and there) for the past two decades, at times it feels like being in a long-term relationship with the city. And like all relationships, it has its ups and downs; to put it mildly.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. A friend once described her relationship with London as an abusive one. Which sounds extreme, but it kind of makes sense. Just like the British weather can display characteristics of all four seasons within the same day, the London experience can be sweet and sour almost simultaneously.
A distressing incident of road rage, for example, can be ensued by the most touching kindness from a complete stranger, and a great night out at one of the theatres or concert halls in town can come to a close with an overcrowded, overheated and generally unpleasant bus or Tube journey home.
Then, just when you think you’ve had enough of it all and that you’re finally ready to migrate to a smaller, less crowded and possibly sunnier place, the city somehow manages to seduce you, once again, into staying. This phenomenon of cajolery tends to take place during the summertime, when the temperatures are mild and the days long.
William Shakespeare was not wrong: there is something truly magical about a midsummer night at this northern latitude! But the long, dark winter months are a very different story.
"Moving to and living in London can be a tough thing - as funny as it sounds, to really enjoy London you need to get out of town as much as possible and do stuff!
The HOFNAR experience offers days out, weekends away and holidays and we get up to all kinds of stuff; from skiing & snowboarding in the winter to surfing, mountain biking, partying, hiking.... in the summer.
Most of our guests are like-minded solo travellers in their twenties and thirties, mainly Brits - but we do get people from all over. It's a fantastic way to meet new people whilst seeing new places, being active and doing STUFF!
We have been running HOFNAR since 2008 and our summer programme is getting bigger and bigger - from our FREE summer party in London on the 2nd July to our Tour de France multi-activity holiday in the Alps, from our regular surf weekends in Cornwall to our days out hiking and biking on the south coast... we have stuff going on all the time.
BRING. IT. ON. "
This year I’ve been lucky enough to be able to spend the best part of the winter in Kerala, practicing yoga and enjoying the tropical climate, food and people – all in all, an amazing experience.
Returning to London at the beginning of March, was quite traumatic; not only because of the shift from 30ºC to full-on wintery weather, but also due to the stark cultural contrast between Kerala and London.
While the pace of life in the southern Indian state was very laid back and the people there seemed genuinely content, London felt like capitalism on steroids! On my way home from Heathrow Airport, the pale, grim-faced commuters on the Tube were not a happy sight.
At the end of the day, Britain is where the Industrial Revolution took place and over two centuries later, London remains very much an emblem of capitalism; and rather ruthless at that, the gap between the rich and the poor being one of the widest in the developed world.
The first time I ever visited London was in the summer of ’89, as a secondary-school student on a language study holiday; though, truth be told, I hardly went to the language school, as I much preferred chatting with my Welsh girlfriend in the morning and exploring the city with other teenage truants at night.
Five years later, I finally moved to the Big Smoke and felt as though I’d come home.
London has changed dramatically over the past two decades: culturally as well as architecturally. In the 90s, for example, there were hardly any cafés or restaurants with outdoor seating outside Soho (they’ve sprung up everywhere now) and it was almost impossible to find decent coffee in town. Today the city feels much more “European”. Kick-started by the advent of the Eurostar service in 1994, connecting London to Paris by train.
A side effect of this cultural transformation is that London has become more and more disconnected from the country in which it is situated and which it is meant to represent. Besides, the ever-expanding economic gap between the South East and the rest of the nation has created a certain degree of resentment towards the capital, especially in the deprived areas of the North. While Northerners tend to blame London for “sucking the life out of the country,”
Devolution of power would seem like the obvious solution. The Scots, with their thirst for autonomy, will probably show the way. Not just to Britain, but to the rest of Europe, too.
In the meantime, though, Londoners shouldn’t be made to feel bad about living in one of the most diverse and exciting cities on Earth. After all, we do pay a high price for the entertainment.