When we come to London, we bring heat. I don’t mean the kind of heat that generates buzz, I mean actual heat – as in temperature. London is not a place where you expect heat. We expected rain and (shameful admission) even bought the dogs raincoats. Come on! It’s London. We’ve been here over the 4th of July when we had to wear sweaters and raincoats and still froze. Not this summer. Or last, apparently, when we were here and roasted.
It’s been strange getting “settled”. Suddenly we’re no longer on holiday because we’re in one place for two months. It’s the first time we fully unpacked, bought groceries, had people in for dinner, etc. But we still need to find an emotional space between “holiday” and actual “residency”. The flat is okay, but not one of my best finds. Giving up control is NOT an easy thing for me. This taught me I was right and won’t ever make that mistake again. But with the house and moving and the distance, etc. it seemed like hiring/trusting London Relocation (whom I spoke to a million times prior to getting here), allegedly a soup to nuts company that takes care of everything, should have done the trick. But they don’t mention all the things they don’t take care of until you get here. And the rental agent, Foxton’s, is the worst. Once we got here we learned they’re notoriously bad BUT they have a corner on the short let market so there’s not a lot of choice. That said, the flat also has many things to commend it, starting with our neighborhood, Maida Vale, aka Little Venice, which is amazing. Charming and magical. We’ve been to London a zillion times and never knew about this ‘hood. We love having the canals right down the block.
We went to a screening of our close friend Sadie Jones’s BBC miniseries, “The Outcast,” based on her award-winning book. It airs here in London in a week or two. Don’t know when or if it airs in the States. The film is wonderful and absolutely captures the book and I hope you get a chance to see/read it. Sadie’s an incredibly talented writer.
London is a constant revelation. I think NYC and LA are international cities but they seem far less so when compared to London. I’m especially struck by the large and very visible Muslim population. It’s not the number of Muslims that surprises me, it’s how easily they appear to have blended into the overall community. Jim and I frequent an outdoor market that’s largely Muslim, and not just Arab Muslims, in addition to every every other ethnic or minority group. I haven’t felt the least bit uncomfortable nor do I feel any tension in the air. To the contrary, there seems to be genuine respect and acceptance of one another. In the US, lip service is paid to being a “melting pot”, but I don’t think we embrace other cultures. I think we try and segregate ourselves as much as possible, particularly if people have the financial means to do so. Unless you live in a big city like NYC or LA, there isn’t much co-mingling of ethnicities.
For all my pro-British rah-rah, there are, sadly, many negative things to say as well. The conservative leadership is gutting progressive programs and imposing the same kind of Draconian laws we’ve already put in place. The government wants to balance the books on the backs of the poor, and, like NYC, the Russians, Chinese and rich Arabs are buying up the place. What I don’t experience here is the kind of malaise or, quite frankly, the ignorance right wing Americans righteously display. British politicians don’t say the shockingly ignorant things US politicians say. There’s no equivalent of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. The BBC had fun with that.
It’s profoundly expensive here and wages don’t match ours. I don’t know how people can afford to live here. We took a tube to our friend Nicky’s last night, who lives in a lovely flat in Kentish Town, a very cool part of London which is becoming increasingly more gentrified. Round trip tube fare for Jim and I. Just over $30.00!! THIRTY FUCKING DOLLARS to ride the tube. And Nicky only lives the distance of downtown Manhattan to the upper West Side! Mad. Utterly mad. Yet when you look around countless numbers of Londoners are headed for the trains, popping over to the Continent for the weekend. How I love trains.
We listen to a LOT of radio. Radio is still a big thing here. You turn on the BBC in the morning and it runs in the background until you go to bed. The range of programming is astonishing. Things you would never in your life dream would be interesting are compelling in the hands of the BBC. We bought a small radio for ten pounds that runs on batteries. It crackles slightly and makes me think it’s how radio sounded in WW2. WW2 is still very much alive in London. It’s all around you, quite literally in the architecture. It’s one of the things I love about London. It’s connection to history. Since our trip to Normandy last year, I’ve become semi-fixated on the Second World War.
Piece of grim news via a friend who, in the course of discussing how food in London is healthier (no GMO’s allowed), dropped a bombshell. Our favorite “quickie” food place, Pret a Manger, is now partly owned by McDonald’s. Is there nowhere that’s safe. Bloody Nestle’s took over Cadbury here and now the double milk tastes FAKE! Not to mention Nestle’s is one of the most EVIL corporations in the world. Google them sometime.