Sometimes I secretly loathe London. Loathe the struggle of bodies, each pushing up against each other, with no respect for the space of another. Loathe the grimy streets, writhing with dirt and emanating a sticky, sweat-like heat. I loathe the shouting families on holiday, the bun-fight that is the tube on any weekday evening, Piccadilly on a weekend, the impossibility of getting where you need to be in a hurry.
Then, almost inexplicably, I fall in love with London all over again.
I fall in love with the South Bank on a Friday evening: cyclists en masse ringing their tin bells joyfully, happy families eating pizza from riverside food trucks, the daily book market right beside the National Theatre where I always browse and Will always buys. Fall in love with the city’s unique oddities, all its own – an unknown man, just another of London’s anonymous citizens, walking his pet ferret (ferret!!) down the Strand. The troupe of uniformed, Portuguese Girl Scouts cooing girlishly over their first glimpse of Buckingham Palace through the swaying trees of Green Park. Fall in love with the city beaches, no doubt teeming with dirt and infection, at sunset, yet still glorious in their urban, amber glow.
I fall in love with you, sitting opposite me on the dawdling Met line as the train rolls across the bridge towards Finchley. The Shard, majestic and elegant in all its modernity, sits behind – to your left – and your glasses are falling towards the end of your nose. You look up and smile, your cheek dimpling on just the one side, and I fall in love. With you, with the city, with the slow slow Metropolitan line as it swings into the city for the umpteenth time.
* photograph captured by my talented sister from the top of Monument.