When I was a teenager, our Capital City had such an air of mystique around it.
I’d spend Saturdays taking the coach from Berkshire suburbia with my friend to London and, as it went through Chiswick, the Hammersmith flyover and into Kensington, be convinced that I’d one day be living in Chiswick, in one of the houses with an Art Deco curved exterior. Teenage dreams eh?
We’d get off the coach at Kensington High Street and meander through Kensington market, there were always some really wonderful stalls with very vibrant stall holders – a mixture of Goth and New Romantics) and we’d take inspiration from them once home and adapt whatever we could find (black is still my staple clothes colour btw).
The Royal Garden Hotel (RGH) was somewhere we’d walk past, it seemed so glamorous with its international flags billowing in the breeze and its close proximity to Kensington Palace, I’d try and imagine what it would be like in there.
Sometimes we’d venter further into the area around Harrods and be captivated by the aura that that store gave off, before it changed ownership and lost a bit of panache.
IRA bomb scares were frequent then and with typical teenage bravado, it was a case of “won’t happen to us, let’s do it”, we kept on keeping on.
I achieved part of my dream and worked in London three separate times on my pre-children career; working in Tower Hill and Aldgate, then Fenchurch Street, then slap-bang in the City in Holborn and finally in Euston where – with a healthy T growing in my tummy – I decided I wanted to be at stay-at-home mum following his birth.
The dream versus reality commute-wish was all a bit different, leaving home in the dark and returning in the dark too, there was the choice between a (sometimes) 3 hour each way coach journey (guaranteeing a seat but exhausting) or a squeeze-you-in-tight train journey, usually without a seat, then another squishy and quite sweaty tube journey, to get to work, sit in an office without having time to appreciate the surroundings and then do it all again….and again….and again.
I never made time to visit the Tower of London whilst practically working opposite it – something I regret now, lunchtimes were spent rushing to the nearest sandwich shop and back to work.
There were always security scares, tube stations being closed or shopping areas, it was a case of finding another way back to the mainline station and getting home, only to do it all again the next day. Because you did.
The afternoon of 9/11 was a time when I just wanted to get home quickly, tall buildings had been evacuated in case and there was a sense of disbelief, a feeling of “how?” and “why?”, something that’s in the air today, why – in the name of religion or beliefs – would an individual set out deliberately to take as many lives as he could? How can that possibly be justified?
Yesterday’s atrocities won’t stop people going to our historical capital, it mustn’t. If it did, “they” would feel “they’d” claimed a victory. There is so much beauty and culture in London, so much I still want to see, from a parent and tourist’s eyes, not as a sleep-deprived commuter.
I did achieve another bit of a dream last year btw, I was at the RGH for a blogging event, the Tots 100 Mad Blog Awards, the hotel was every bit as lovely as I imagined, with staff calling me “Madam” – and not in the tone of when you’re told off and being called a Madam either.
London, I love you.