Just visiting is wonderful, of course, because you don't worry so much about money, and you have heaps of time to waste on the Tube criss-crossing the city. But living there always seems daunting. Like New York.
But lately, I've been visiting London a lot. I did a work experience with a fantastic independent production company there called Whistledown in November, and this past weekend, I visited to attend a free radio training day at the BBC.
When I visit London, I stay with my beautiful, lovely, generous friend Deepali. I feel really lucky to know someone like her, she's always offering a glass of wine after a long day. And I have to be really honest and admit that visiting London is a lot less stressful because of her. She is just so kind.
Mark is also in London now, working as a paralegal at a property company, so this past weekend, we got to spend loads of time together in the city. On Saturday, we visited the supercool London Transport Museum, where you can sit in old horse trams and old steam Tube trains. It was a brilliant museum, so fascinating. The thing is, the London Underground was such a breakthrough, in so many ways. The map alone is a brilliant story.
It's in a gorgeous old building, with beautiful modern glass windows
They had the old trains done up to be historically accurate, so they had old archival ads in them. Here's one for PUNCH magazine:
And an old map, before they took on Harry Beck's schematic map, and before the Underground was as big as it is now.
Mark loved sitting in the old horse trams and underground trains, even though they featured awkward old animatronics and mannequins wearing strange period clothing.
And I loved it, too, because I am a total dork about civil engineering, design, cities and anything that makes them better. I've always been a city girl, almost every story I've ever written is about cities. And as Mark and I were wandering around on Saturday, we stumbled on this.
It's an art exhibit by Robert Montgomery at KK Outlet. The sentiment and the warmth of the presentation are perfectly matched. And the fact that it's about the loveliness of cities, and that I found it just walking through a city that I wasn't entirely sold on... made me feel so excited and thrilled, and truly warm there in the fire of everyone. I'm a total sucker for citylove.
It was freezing cold, and it snowed all night. Deepali lives in a part of town called Borough; Dickens mentions it in Little Dorritt and his father was in the debtor's prison there. And the strange thing is that when it snowed and we looked out Deepali's window... it really looked Dickensian. Snow-covered rooftops and pavements... dark and dreary and cold and grim. I liked the snow. I liked being in a place that can still sometimes feel like the place it once was. A literary place. It was wonderful.
On Sunday, Mark and I went to Brick Lane for bagels. It was very cold, and also treacherous to walk through the streets, because of the snow and ice, and we ended up huddling in a warm pub. Great weekend.
My radio training day was fantastic, too! I met loads of new people and spent time with some that I'd already known a bit. I learned a lot as well. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and bright. Here's the view outside BBC's White City building.
I don't know that I've completely changed how I feel about London, even after all this loveliness. I don't know that I'd want to live there, at least not for long, or that I like it as much as I like Manchester. But a few more lovely weekends like that just might do the trick..