Happy new year

I offer here an update on my life in London. It starts bleak, but ends happily (I hope).

I’ve fallen in love/hate with this city. It’s a paradoxical place – massive, teeming, cosmopolitan, beautiful and exciting; but also dreary, lonely, ugly, and dreadfully dull. It’s tough to know on a given week which London you’ll get, but know this – either one will cost you a small fortune to experience. Just leaving my flat costs me money. Even if I return home with empty hands and belly, it seems somehow I’ve spent the equivalent of $10. There are actually times I’ve wanted to go out and spend the rare beautiful day at a cafe and thought to myself, “it’s really not worth leaving the house.” That, and they don’t really do cafes in London. Perhaps because of the difficulty in getting from place to place cheaply (and the tube shuts around midnight), you can have friends all over the city but you’ll never see them, because no one leaves their neighborhoods.

But it’s not all bad. London at night is gorgeous. It’s nice sometimes just to drive around the city and take it all in. The south bank, near where I live, is particularly nice for a nighttime stroll, with lit trees, the London Eye, and an interesting mix of old and new architecture. And once you’ve found a good local pub, you’ve found a good reason not to leave your neighborhood too often anyway. There’s also a lot of good fun to be had if you know where to look. The tough part is late night, as it changes every week – you don’t typically find the same kind of crowd or music at the same venues.

But there are a few standouts in the early evening category – Shunt being one of them. It’s a vast network of cavernous alcoves beneath London Bridge train station, populated by a rotating series of eclectic art installations, musical experimentation and bizarre films. It opens at the back to a large hall with vaulted ceilings, a bar, dj booth and seating areas (one of which is seasonally decorated to appear to be outdoors). Pretty much the coolest place in London at my doorstep. I once saw a 15-foot-tall glowing white alien marionette being operated by a half dozen people dressed in black, lurching through the hallways and corridors as if actually alive and slightly drunk.

Living here for a long time? I don’t know about that. I still prefer Austin. But living here for a little while? I could recommend it. And I encourage a visit while I’m still around. I can offer a couch to crash on and a somewhat mediocre tour.

6 thoughts on “Happy new year

  1. If I can come up with $600 or so for a plane ticket I’ll see what I can do.Apparently the best airfares to London are when it’s cold and shitty and not over the holidays.

  2. I’m looking forward to hanging out during your brief return. Hopefully we’ll get some rain and barton springs won’t be at drought status the whole time you’re here.

  3. i spent close to two weeks in london (almost 4 years ago now!!) and i too experienced some love/hate as well. london was far bigger and dirtier than i imagined it would be and i’d sometimes get completely exhausted just being out and about. it was thrilling to see so many things in person that i’d only ever seen in photos or movies but when it was time to head to the countryside of scotland i was SO READY. that being said, for at least a year i’ve been craving a second visit to london. if only my checkbook would allow.

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