Tuesday, 28 April 2009

This is London?

Explain this to me. I make eye contact with the guy sitting opposite me on the tube. I say "Hey, how's it going?" His response? "Don't talk to me." So I don't. We get off at the same stop, get in the same lift, and he starts talking to me again. "You got a problem?" he asks me, like I'm threatening him. I say it's a bit of an over the top reaction to a simple 'hello'. He gets aggressive. I tell him this is his issue, not mine, and walk off.

And everyone I speak to about this goes, "Oh, well, you shouldn't speak to people on the tube, you're lucky you didn't get stabbed".


Sunday, 12 April 2009

Coming Home

If I'd sat down six months ago and made a list, a 5 step plan as it were, of things to avoid doing, so as not to be a gap year casualty, my list would go something like this:

- Don't constantly go on about how people you know 'could really benefit from travelling'
- Don't interrupt with an interesting (but largely irrelevant) story about 'that thing that happened to you in Singapore' (or wherever) when someone is trying to tell you about a current (and highly relevant) emotional trauma they're going through
- Don't carp on about how 'everything's different now'
- Don't tell people you've 'found yourself' (or that you now understand what the whole concept of 'finding oneself' truly means, not on an intellectual, head level, but on an emotional, heart level, or through true experience of the very action of 'finding oneself' itself)
- Don't complain constantly about how it's 'so cold' in this country

So I am definitely, one hundred per cent, without question, a gap year casualty.

It's okay, I'm not too bothered (which would be number six on my list if I hadn't confined myself to just five spaces), it doesn't matter. I'm just glad I'm still wearing socks and have never, ever uttered the justification for my feet smelling that 'that's why they're so far away from your face, innit'. I don't have blonde highlights. And at the very least, I'm still self-conscious enough to put quote marks around the words 'finding myself'.

Still, it's a strange and wonderful feeling to be back. The cloistered feeling that made me leave London in the first place has been replaced by a quiet admiration of it's good points, a ringing condemnation of it's bad points but also a general feeling that this may just be another place, but right now it's the place for me. It's great to be somewhere where there's so much going on, even if I haven't had a second spare since I've been back, let alone an hour to check out all the galleries and shows I want to see.

More to the point, my 'eyes are opened now' (number seven) to what London is like. I never really noticed how unfriendly (eight) and closed off it is. People seem quite lonely here, but scared to break out. Sitting on the tube I said hi to the girl sitting next to me. She practically curled up into a ball and cried. I turned back to my friend. As I left the carriage at my stop, I looked back, and saw her staring at me, this enormous, cheerful smile on her face. She kept her eyes fixed on me, the same open-faced joy on her face, until I was two carriages down and she was out of my sight. Strange as that sounds, stranger was the musician I met the next day who gave me a fake address so I could come and see his band play.