London. How do I love you, let me count the ways.
You grabbed me by the heart the day I left Paris and dropped anchor into Victoria bus station, with just one suitcase and a bag full of dreams to my name. You never let me go, although our love affair has had its good days and its bad days.
Let’s be honest, when I arrived you weren’t very kind to my taste buds. I met my first curry dish in a flock-papered restaurant on the King Street in Hammersmith and sampled yeasty Marmite, spread in a thin layer on buttered toast. I hated it. My regular Saturday night treat was soggy fish and chips, back then still wrapped in inky newspaper. Going out for a drink was a pulled pint of bitter and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps, and you adamantly refused to serve me any of it after 11pm. And let’s not even talk about the coffee. Yes London, frankly, you were rather sadistic on those first dates.
Popping into a museum wasn’t an everyday luxury I could afford, a night at the theatre even less. Your cinemas were often uncomfortable and timeworn – and I don’t mean in a vintage way. You were in a recession, and you were melancholic.
Then our relationship really started to blossom. Cool Britannia was born, the Saatchi Gallery opened, and London and Paris became bosom buddies when the Eurostar steamed ahead. The Globe Theatre rose like a phoenix from its ashes in Bankside. Portobello Road was, well, a bit iffy when I arrived, but the release of Notting Hill changed all that. Your fashion designers rocked the catwalk, and your Royal Family were the coolest bluebloods on the planet. Opera houses, concert halls, plays, films, actors and musicians were the envy of the world. Your cinemas morphed into dream palaces. And I became addicted to your restaurants, gastropubs, pop-ups, cafés and tea shops. Nigella, Gordon, Jamie and Delia even seduced me into becoming a culinary junkie in my own kitchen.
Now I can always step back into your past in the leathery barber shops of Jermyn Street, the tailors of Savile Row, Dennis Severs’ timewarp house in Spitafields, Lord Leighton’s treasure trove in Holland Park, and John Soane’s house of curiosities in Holborn. When I want to sprint into the future, I look towards Canary Wharf, the Design, the Tate and the Science Museum, and I can wander around London’s treasures free of charge. When I crave retail therapy, I seek out the world’s finest pleasure domes: Selfridges, Harrods and Liberty’s. Your vibrant food markets in Borough, Berwick, Broadway and Brick Lane are a sight for hungry eyes. Your streets are congested, but they’re buzzing with excitement, and as Aston Martin Routemasters snake past each other on Oxford Street, the London Eye watches over the Thames as she ebbs and flows.
People ask me all the time: why do I blog about you? It’s simple really. I’m totally addicted, head over heels and hopelessly in love with you. And as it happens, even with Marmite now.