London is an enigma. All it takes is a walk down Walthamstow High Street, or a tootle through Regents Park, or even a drunken fumble under the bridge in Southbank, and you would discover this. It has its own rules and regulations, and apparently bows to no one, no matter how accurate your Google Maps was before you got to London – you will walk past Buckingham Palace at least three times before you realise what you’re looking for is just a very, very high wall. Fact.
Personally I love enigmas, be they places or people, they always keep me on my toes. Oh, you’re dressed as the Mad Hatter because you want to enjoy some free tea with strangers and possibly give them more realistic nightmares? Well of course, I would expect nothing less from Camden Town. Oh, you’ve had to get a buskers permit even though you’re not asking for money or selling anything? Well yeah, it’s still London; and it’s still a stuffy rule following enigma. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either. Yes, I would like some tea.
The thing about the concept of an enigma, in my opinion, is the place or the person can remain that way because they are not consciously trying to be that way most of the time. In person form, sometimes it means that that person doesn’t necessarily know what they want from life, so they are constantly acting unpredictably and in the spur of the moment. This is a brilliant characteristic until they’ve promised to pick a relative up from the airport, but never actually make it there because they bumped into a guy on the street dressed like a clown and realised that what’s been missing from their lives can be found in the circus. So they joined the circus, naturally.
An enigma as a place, London a prime (and my only) example, will get you good and lost. I genuinely believe that you could never walk every street or alley way of London because it’s just impossible. London doesn’t know itself well enough for even Google to get it all right (and we know that Google, AKA Big Brother, sees ALL). That’s what I love about it though; its nooks and crannies, its imperfections, and its perfect apartments that line the streets of Kensington and the edges of Hyde Park. Its high street markets with the loudest salesmen and women you’ll ever meet (AKA Green Grocers), and its millions and millions and millions of chicken shops. I’m genuinely curious as to how there are any chickens left in the world with the amount of chicken shops we have. Probably best not to dig any deeper into that one.
This is another great thing about London, its secrets. Those usually confined to its walkways and tunnels, and shortcuts that not everyone knows about and blah, blah, blah. You get it. London’s great, you can purchase a guidebook for more information about it.
What I really want to talk about is MY London; or at least a whistle stop tour. I’ve lived in North, South and East. Never West London though because I have a stereotype about it in my head (old money/ new money, everyone wears boating shoes and says “Yah” instead of “Yes”. See, stereotype). No one place I’ve lived in London has ever been the same as another place, so here are some words to describe my feelings about each part of London.
- North: Clean, conservative, middle class, organised, arty, hippy, hemp, creative, charitable, innocent.
- South: Gritty, happy, hard working, working class, West African, educated, aspiring, youthful, grounding.
- East: Resourceful, multicoloured, textured, economic, dynamic, creative, underestimated, exciting.
- West (because I have worked there): Money, excessive, community, beauty, power, big-hearted, healthy, considered.
Take from these words what you will (hopefully not offence, but you can’t please everyone), and think about what words you would come up with to describe your London.
Mine is definitely an enigma, never the same from one day to the next which can be exhausting but also liberating if you keep your mind open to it. One of the best things about it for me is that it completely belongs to me, every single bit of it; the good, the bad, the ugly and the Shard. I despise that eye sore and I don’t care if that offends. I’m a Londoner and it is my right to hate certain buildings that line our sky. OK, I’ll stop now.
Image credit: London city by Abir Alward from the Noun Project