18 June 2014

London: why absence makes the heart grow fonder

There's a much wheeled-out quote from Samuel Johnson that goes 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life' and I think anyone who's ever spent any significant amount of time in the city (ie more than a Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street) would certainly agree. Now, I'm certainly not tired of London and all it has to offer; having lived here for almost seven years - I exchanged the provincial town of my teenage upbringing for the bright lights of university in Mile End - I'm constantly finding new things to see, do and mainly eat. But there's no denying that it can grind you down a bit - the daily to and fro on the tube, the monotony of routine and those last weeks of work before a booked holiday where time seems to slip into a coma.

Two weeks out of London is quite a long time but this time off work is exactly what I needed, and my boss was inclined to agree when he told me that I could do with the break. On the eve of a five day trip to Italy for my 25th (have I mentioned it yet?) and having been holed up in the aforementioned provincial town, I've spent the last few days in a state that can only be described as moving at a snail's pace. Frenetic doesn't exist here.

I hurtled down on Saturday armed with a holdall, a suitcase, two bottles of wine and a severe case of the caffeine shakes. The afternoon was spent slightly more civilised than the evening, with a glass of Gospel Green sparkling cyder and then in the town pub watching the football, respectively. After approximately ten minutes in what used to be a fairly decent local but is now full of aggressive teenagers wearing tracksuit bottoms, I wanted to leave but stuck it out, only to be absolutely covered in a heady combination of beer and Jaegermeister when England scored their only goal. When the match was over and the pub shut, we ended up walking to a friend of a friend's for a house party which may have been fun long ago but sitting in a kitchen surrounded by less aggressive boys all wearing a variation of the same shirt/jeans combo and about six years younger than me was not quite how I feel my penultimate Saturday night as a 24 year old should have been spent.

Tomorrow I'm off to Puglia for five days where I intend to consume a lot of prosecco, cheese, meat and olives and then promptly have to begin a strict regime of not eating that when I get back. I turn 25 midway through the trip (I've made it at least a biannual thing to be away for my birthday) and I'm already planning a whole load of new things for when I come back to London. One could say I'm almost a proper adult.

So the time away from London is definitely a good thing and nothing can beat that feeling of pulling into Waterloo after even a weekend away and feeling something akin to a heartbeat welcome you back to the city. A lot of people I grew up with back home find London overwhelming, busy, stifling and I can understand that to a degree when home means you're somebody rather than another nobody and everyone knows your name, your favourite drink and the ins-and-outs of your last three relationships, but for me, it's the opposite. Home is stifling and London is freedom. And there is nothing better than a break from routine to show you quite how much you miss it.

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