I’m new here. I’ve always wanted to live in London but never really knew what one does in the Big City. A few observations to be shared before they become ‘normal’…
London contradicts itself and I love it. Walking through Westfield… All modern shopping centre… Thirty football pitches in size… Glass… Smoothly curved white walls… Temple of contemporary consumerism, where ‘Express Yourself’ plays through hidden speakers.
An African lady with her hair in a tight bun is stood by a glass balcony leaning forward slightly and swaying. Her eyes are closed and it almost looks like she’s falling asleep. Tied to her back in a brightly coloured cloth, a little girl lies with her head rested on the lady’s back, snoozing gently. Across the way, two ladies in burqas with clutch-bags stand outside a lingerie shop.
Both a spawner and incubator of ideas, London is a great place to try to create something new, because someone will probably be interested. At the other end of the scale, I was amazed when I first stumbled across Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park (where this section derives its name): A place of protests and people in funny hats who come to spout their ideas to quarrelsome crowds, dumbfounded tourists on Boris bikes and indignant passers-by.
But there is always a crowd. There are always people who will come and listen. Last time I passed through, it was a weekday and the place was empty except for a grisly-faced, ethnically Japanese man wearing nought but a kilt, thick tartan socks and gillies, enthusiastically playing the bagpipes to the traffic rounding marble arch. He didn’t return my smile. His was a serious business.
I guess my point comes in two parts. Firstly, as with any system, all this diversity gives us strength and resilience. I came to London assuming that there was conformity, everyone worked 9-5 and tumble weed prevailed in the interim. The great diversity of cultures, ideas and actions make London a fantastic place to live for those with open eyes.
And secondly, each person who is doing something ‘wacky’ with their free time has logically decided that it’s time well spent, either because they enjoy what they’re doing or because they really believe in what it is they have to contribute.
Be busy, rush around paying bills, commuting, picking the kids up and worrying about the mortgage. Just don’t forget to be aware, London: there are new ideas of value all over the place. Take it from the noob.
Image by Todd Huffman courtesy of Flickr