I guess I’ve been putting off writing this for long enough. It first came to me on a rare hot summer day, showing off my city to an out-of-towner, revisiting my favourite spots of the past 8 years and desperately trying to take it all in, to hold on to it for as long as I can, lest any memories – happy or sad – escape while I prepared to pack my bags and change postcodes, this time not deciding about moving north or south of the river but to a place where I’ve seen my toes through my shoes for longer than I can remember.
There were days on the lead up to that departure where I’d take the longer route to anywhere, just to linger around the city streets, sometimes conjuring scenes of previous seasons’ episodes and writing stuff down I had forgotten to remember in a while. And I wondered of how it’s possible to make sense of the past 8 years and the life I’ve lived at this place which I’ve loved and at times despaired at. This place where I met my best friends and some good friends and some terrible recruiters and estate agents. Where I wore my £15 sparkly wellingtons to see Kings of Leon at Hyde Park with a girl who emailed me on my last day at work to say it’s a shame we didn’t get to hang out more. The same girl who advanced her sewing skills to make me ‘the thing’ for my 30th birthday.
Where playing Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaurs at the best club of all time (RIP Shunt) landed a friend on the concrete floor with a dislocated shoulder. Where we spent our nights at G-A-Y Late, trying to escape the farts while dancing and singing ‘keep on surviving’ EVERY TIME.
The same city where I went into work with the worst hangover of my life, spending every minute of the bus ride on the 390 moments from throwing up, all after having been emotionally drunk and cried into a friend’s face also on the 390. The same friend who loved getting beers bigger than his face at Katzenjammer’s and signed my wedding certificate at Camden Town Hall.
Yes reader. London is the city where I got legally married to the man who saw me projectile vomit a burrito on the floor of the Room for London with a view of the whole South Bank and didn’t flinch.Who brought me flat Coke when my stomach hurt and spent half a year folding 1,000 origami paper cranes with me just because. Who organised dirty pub crawls to the Cock and Lion and Dirty Dicks and the Balls Brothers and who instilled in me a love for Pete and the Pirates and Arcade Fire.
The place where I arrived at on an August afternoon in 2009 for Somerset House Summer Screen and I declared I wanted to be a Londoner. And I visited every year ever since. Where one of my first nights out ended with auguardiente shots and empanadas from of a pedicab driver outside Priscilla. Which I actually saw live drinking from literally lit martini glasses. With the same friends that we’ve had more Sunday roasts and brunches than I can count and who I realise are the reason my teeth now show in photos.
The same city where we barely contained laughter at the last OM of our first common yoga practice and we got served drinks at home by a naked butler with gigantic tattoos of his children’s names. Where we messaged Kendall Jenner on Instagram saying ‘hey girl hey’ and where I always knew I had someone to count on when the brunch question was savoury or sweet.
The same city where tears were streaming down my face in front of a chain-link fence behind Essex Road and I actually heard the sound of hearts breaking. Where I dragged a Christmas tree and a bag of socks, chocolate and packaged soup home from Chapel Market, oblivious to the world around me and wondering if I’d ever be OK.
Where I lost track of time watching Gatz for 8 hours straight at the theatre and I bawled watching Amy at Koko. Where I stripped to my leggings and changed into a prisoner’s outfit at a disused school in Hackney for the best Secret Cinema ever. Where we’d head to Giuseppe, a cheesy restaurant that turns into a nightclub on Fridays, and hope it’d be a hit and not a miss night, like the ones in 2010.
The city whose streets I walked down in obsessively playing on repeat Fitzpleasure and Crying For No Reason and Barely Legal. Where I jumped around to the Strokes with glitter on my face and watched the Rolling Stones on stage, a cross between Wimbledon and a pantomime forest.
Where I spent ridiculous amount of money on coffee and many, many hours at TAP staging Instagram posts, occasionally the milky foam’s ‘heart looking like an ass’, with a friend who would always order cake back then and years later I screamed his name near Blackfriars while he ran his first marathon.
The same place where I teared up watching the hottest bride walk down the aisle in my favourite of places – the Barbican Observatory – , my friend who never judged me when I sent her Obama memes and now leaves me voice messages while she’s eating her cereal.
A place where I stood up in front of absolute strangers to read pages off Moby Dick at SouthBank Centre and I got my picture printed on the WSJ, quoted as a lawyer. Where I had tea with one of America’s sweethearts, Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and where drunkenly asked Lemar for an autograph, saying ‘If there’s any justice in the world’ was one of my all-time favourite songs.
London is the place where I first ate a Michelin starred supper at Dinner, where I tried all of the different Pizza Pilgrims options and I queued for the Smokestak brisket (and maybe also stare admiringly at David Carter). Where I’d change my mind about eating somewhere if Queen Grace said it’s not worth it and waiting in line didn’t even matter if I was going to tuck into pici at Padella or kothu roti at Hoppers. Where I spent hours walking round Borough Market – most of them when my mother was in town – and I introduced my sister to katsu curry rice at Tokyo Diner. She liked it so much she came to stay.
Where we drank mimosas squeezing carton juice into our mini champagne bottles on board a Routemaster to celebrate friends getting married and danced Crazy In Love at the London Canal Museum of all places. A place where I held my friends’ children for the first time and pushed their strollers and gave them their bottles and read their psychedelic newborn books.
London, where I bought front row tickets to see Ira Glass and upper tier tickets to Adele – fan-girling during both occasions. Where I felt every hair on my body tingle listening to Moderat again and again at Field Day and Brixton and also Pimlico and Aldgate East. The city where we arrived half a bottle of rose in to a life drawing class with the girl who taught me two of the most important words I learned while in the UK – wee git.
The city where friends came to our place for Oktoberfest and Eurovision and pizza parties and where we watched the Breakfast Club on the projector on Halloween with bags of sweets ready for the trick or treaters.
London is the place where my last weeks were celebrated with leaving drinks and walks and meals all over town and I got hangover kits with fags and antacids but also palm necklaces and the ‘Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ as leaving presents. Ending up at G-A-Y at 3am like when I first moved here and finally getting to tick Ronnie Scott’s off the bucket list.
It’s the place I’m flying to tonight on Thanksgiving of all days. So I decided it was time to write this because last week someone at the gym asked me if was celebrating and I told him we used to do it every year in London and I caught myself feeling so many things at once and the memories of friends round the table rushed through and I barely held it together in the shower so yeah, I’m celebrating Thanksgiving being thankful for those 8 years and the chance to come home and live it all again with the people I love the most.