Usually very little, to be fair. This past (almost) year I’ve been having way too much fun most of the time – creeping around a new country, speaking terrible Spanish and avoiding mirrors because excessive gin consumption has left me looking like Keith Richards. I miss the obvious things of course. Family, friends, Jaffa cakes. Other than that, 90% of the time I’m enjoying my new semi-nomadic life.
Today is one of those days where I’m missing London. It doesn’t happen very often but this week my city had one of its three annual days of rain. Instead of being moderately depressed I actually enjoyed it, because it reminded me of home. My other home, where Tesco plastic bags run wild in the streets, queues are a way of life and if your house doesn’t have a six month supply of tea bags, are you even really prepared for the apocalypse?
I didn’t grow up in London, but it was home for several years and I consider myself, for the most part, at least half a Cockney. So without further ado, here’s a mini love letter to some of the things I miss about the Big Smoke:
Not even joking, I used to enjoy the Tube because, being a bike wanker who cycled everywhere, I only took it once or twice a week. I love the anonymity on the Tube, the way nobody wants to make eye contact. I love when, during rush hour, somebody gets stuck between the doors and pretends like nothing happened. I love targeting manspreaders by ‘accidentally’ putting my hand/bag on their leg. When I briefly lived in West London, I used to stay at friend’s houses in East and enjoy my hour-long, hungover journey back to Fulham with coffee and usually some terrible music to keep me company. Say what you want about the Underground – strikes and delays aside, it’s pretty cool.
It’s raining. Commutes are a bitch. Having to wear grey a lot of the time. House prices. Coffee prices. Cocaine prices (apparently). Nightlife coming to a screeching halt at 2am in lots of places. Tinder. Not having enough cash for your weekly cheeky Nandos. There’s a lot of reasons to be a grumpy old fart in London – I know this because I used to be one. There’s a great quote in Zadie Smith’s book NW, where one of the protagonists takes too long to make a decision in a corner shop and feels ‘the shame of having inconvenienced another Londoner’. Literally everyone is grumpy and in a hurry, but I feel like that’s part of the British charm in general.
My city in Spain is extremely white. I am an extremely white person myself, even I find this weird. One of the things I love about London is that it’s a total melting pot – like lots of parts of America but with less racism. You can walk down a street and hear multiple languages, see multiple continents represented in just a few steps. My area in East London had sizable communities from Bangladesh, West Africa, Turkey, the Caribbean and Poland to name just a few. Plus hipsters. This was pretty great because of the food options on offer, but also because I felt like I was part of a truly diverse, global community.
Victoria Park in the summer is one of the best things in existence. Hackney Downs comes a close second, followed by Allen Gardens just off Brick Lane, which was always a little bit dodgy. One time I was offered drugs three times in twenty minutes, by three different dudes. They were all very nice though.
The God awful weather
I actually like rain in small doses. Plus the weather gives you something to talk about – it’s a British tradition.
I miss my London friends all the time. One of my crew recently relocated to Bermuda which has made it even more difficult for us to all get together more than once or twice a year. Weekends used to be sitting in coffee shops in East for several hours talking shit about work/people/life, drinking overpriced gin and blatantly ignoring the impressive London landmarks everywhere. The friends I’ve made on my travels in the past year are absolute legends, but I’ll always miss drunk brunches in E8 with a group of grumpy Cockneys.
For some reason I can’t find good bagels here.
There’s probably some other stuff too but I forgot. I’m not sure when I’ll be back next, but I’m keeping my Boris bike (or should it be Sadiq cycle) membership well and truly open.