London


Columns

Just over a year ago, I was revising for my paediatrics exams in the medical library which sits across the road from the main university quad. In the midst of revision, a variety of things can give distraction: frozen yogurt, water breaks and Hollywood film stars… yes.

A medic came running in and told us that Leonardo DiCaprio was filming in the main library. That was all the information we needed. A large handful of female doctors-to-be abandoned their textbooks in a frantic search for the actors. Standing the Jewish history section, looking out-of-place with our NHS ID tags jiggling around our necks, we tried to catch a glimpse of the filming. We left disappointed; there wasn’t much happening, but we had a chat with one of the film crew who explained to us what they were shooting and what the film was all about.

The plot centres around a person’s dream state, subconscious and how they can be manipulated. Last week, I was in a small cinema in rural New Zealand, taking in the sight of Michael Caine and Leo having a banter in the Gustave Tuck lecture theatre. I was last there for a revision course; it was stiflingly hot and no one had cleared away the leftover catering from another event, so the smell of stale BLT sandwiches and old coffee permeated its way through the heat. The seats were so uncomfortable and the course was so tedious that I left an hour early.

I thought it was a good movie. It resulted in a trippy experience: driving through the pitch black, I realised that UCL would be enjoying the afternoon sunshine and in the midst of romanticism, I felt a pang of longing for the place that provided me with a focal point for 6 years. But putting emotions aside, it’s a building; the people I connected with in and around it are ultimately the constant in which we evolved and nurtured one another: it’s a continual process regardless of circumstances and distance. I’m certain there are souls here I can connect and evolve with. If they can appreciate the need for frozen yogurt and chasing film stars to avoid working, I’ll apply for residency.

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M25 sunrise

Revision break at uni. BT tower peeping through

Trees, Eye, Clouds

Roots

Elephant Parade, Marylebone

St Giles in the Fields

Reflecting the building opposite

St Giles Central

Strawberries after a chemically induced growth spurt

Someone asked me what I will miss about London. It’s a difficult question to answer; it’s a city and my memories and attachments are involved in the people I have connected with along the way. Any answers are also dependent on the home-to-be and its environment; I’d miss the empty roads of central London if I moved back to Bangkok just as I would miss the honourable, noble politicians of the UK if I went to live in Italy.

Arbutus meets London Pride

The best way I can articulate my answer is that if you buy or grow seasonal produce, you’re so wrapped up in the sweet little strawberries, you stop missing bananas. So there will be times I will yearn for creature comforts but there will be something different to learn and get used to, and until I experience long-term separation, I won’t know what they are. I also think that one city cannot fully meet a persons needs, so I don’t feel a pang of conscience while weighing up what I can gain from relocating; geographical cheating!

If I have to give an answer and predict  I will miss, it’s the diversity and juxtaposition: a 5 minute bus ride can separate the wealthiest and most deprived areas. Talking to one patient about their career as a judge, and the next as a graffiti artist and full-time sadist. And sitting in my favourite restaurant, watching the semi-naked world go by.

xkcd: Sheeple

Something very disturbing happened to me on the Tube a few weeks ago: a stranger struck up conversation with me. After I got over my initial shock and repulsion, we had a pleasant exchange on the subject of the Bakerloo line. He thought that Londoners are friendlier than they’re made out to be, and I guess our exchange proved this, although he probably sought me out on an unconscious level to confirm his expectations.

Robert Fisk said that war represents the total failure of the human spirit. I’d suggest trying to get on the northbound blue line at Victoria during rush hour for a contemporary, slightly less traumatic insight into the human condition. When forced to assume the position of nose-to-someone-else’s-armpit, that violation of personal boundaries is more than enough to quell the idea of verbal dialogue.

An individual could of course strike up a conversation about the weather, it’s such a useful ice-breaker embedded in English culture, but the underground for most part removes the opportunity. Despite the negative outlook, there’s an unspoken cohesiveness: the cost, the sour milk stench at Waterloo, the long interchanges, Northern line time, black phelgm and those bloody A4 sized wheelie suitcases: we’re all being taken for a ride. I look forward to not missing it.