It seems impossible to consider, but there is a moment when London becomes just… London. Just a city you work in, live in. Its history, its grandeur, its beauty, fall away. You take them all for granted and, instead, life in London becomes about getting from A to B, about eating when you’re hungry, about finding distractions to get through those few hours when you’re not working, eating, in transit. So when something comes along to reboot your brain, to remind you how truly wonderful England’s capital is, well, it’s a blessing.
For me, that reminder came in the form of my dad.
When I returned to London from Greece (thankfully flying with the wonderful Aegean Airlines rather than British Airways – in which case my flight would have been cancelled), my dad came along. Though he had visited London some ten years previously, in darkest winter, with my mum, it was almost as if he was visiting for the first time. Not only because it was the beginning of summer, but also because he would now be seeing London as the city his eldest daughter was choosing to call home, if for a short (?) while.
As I mentioned in my post from (gulp) two weeks ago (really hope y’all didn’t notice my lack of posting last week for the FIRST TIME EVER since beginning this blog – not even a re-post!), my time in Greece was…complex. And even with my two side trips to the islands of Andros (go!) and Zakynthos (go second!) which were wonderful, I was still utterly elated to return home. Yes, home. As the plane touched down at Heathrow airport (terminal two thankfully), the weight I had been carrying around for a little too long, evaporated. I was back, back to my life, back to my routine, back to not thinking about how wonderful London was because surely I was a hardened Londoner by now.
Or so I thought.
Instead, I became a tour guide, a cheerleader even, for this amazing city. Not only that, I became a witness. A witness to someone else falling in love with a place that already had my heart. I thought it would happen gradually, if it was to happen at all (I had put together an itinerary to ensure it did happen but one never knows…), but even on the drive from the airport to Dad’s hotel in Fitzrovia (yes, I pulled out all the stops), I could see him falling already.
Over the next few days, under a sun that greeted us somewhat shyly, we visited horse guards and modern art exhibitions and a great abbey and pubs and men’s clothing shops (dear god the service in those places is amazing) and Pret (yep, you read that correctly) and libraries and museums and parks and Hackney and streets filled with buildings to put any other Empire to shame. It wasn’t only my dad’s eyes that were wide with amazement at every turn, my own eyes were once again opened to how truly wonderful this place is. There is so much on offer, and not just in terms of things to do, but the history that greets you at every turn is breathtaking. The diversity of people, of food, of how your day will unfold, makes the city utterly unique.
We dragged our poor feet back to the hotel lobby on Dad’s last day, a short while before he was due back at the airport, and with our thirst quenched, I knew he would return to Melbourne with a better understanding of why I had chosen to live in London.
I was always going to write about Dad’s visit to the UK. I knew that during those few days, the angle for my piece would present itself and the words would flow. And then the terrible events of Saturday night happened and I knew I wouldn’t change my mind. I wanted to write this piece to remind myself, remind anyone reading this piece, about how easily it is to fall in love with London and why whenever something terrible happens to it, we’ll all band together to make sure life keeps going. Because when you love something, you don’t give up, you don’t let go, you never stop caring. And that’s why we will never be defeated by those driven by hate and fear. London has my heart – it always will.