A city is what you make of it

Tonight I was at St. Paul’s Cathedral watching Handel’s Messiah. Sitting in a row that seemed to be occupied entirely by nuns (who didn’t even give me dirty looks when I seemed to be the only person in the cathedral not to pray). Luckily, they didn’t seem too interested in me as it would have been awkward if they asked if I went to church or something. “No, I’m the chair of a purely secular, humanist charity, thanks for asking.” This happened by chance, as someone at work had booked tickets and then were not be able to go. Score! 2 hours in a freezing stone building in December! What’s not to love?

As I was sitting, waiting for the music to start, I read this Buzzfeed list and while it is dangerous to seriously think that a Buzzfeed list is worth critiquing, it did make me ponder about my adopted city.

Oddly enough, London is the city I’ve lived the longest, continuously, in my life. The second longest was when I lived in an intersection in the middle of nowhere Ontario between the age 16 and 23. I have lived in various bits of London (slowly moving inward from zone 3 to 1 over almost 8 years now. Magical zone 1, I never want to leave, though I will never afford a house (or even rent a 2-bed flat here).

So back to this list. It seemed entirely negative which isn’t something I equate with London. Some Londoners seem to have this love-hate relationship with the city but I think I’m firmly in the love-love situation. There are moments where you get annoyed (the 40 minute wait for my bus as 4 drove by without stopping was one of those last week) but no matter where you live, it is what you do there that defines your relationship with it.

So this list seemed to be entirely wrapped around the idea of some poor city boy who expected to work little, get paid lots and get a lot of girls. Expectations like that are surely going to be disappointing because if you aren’t relatively affluent, it’s going to be hard to do. Work hard, play hard is a phrase that has disappointment in its DNA. Maybe it worked when you were in Uni and could sleep off a class once in awhile but holding down a full time job isn’t so forgiving.

Then there’s clubs and going to trendy things. Geez, I hate that shit. I think this is my get out of jail pass when it comes to what most people want. I enjoy contemplative lectures (or the occasional concert in a massive cathedral) and these sorts of activities are a little lower on the stress/late night level than clubbing. Though not on the liver, nothing like a pints or 3 after a good lecture on science, atheism or anarchist alternatives to being a wage-slave (that was last Sunday). Occasionally, there will be a punk gig.

So my expectation for enjoyment is a lot more accessible. And in a city like London where there are multiple universities, august institutions like The Royal Society, not to mention our own rabble of Skeptics in the Pub, we’re spoiled for sustainable, sensible fun. But to each their own and all that. Your rave is not my lecture on quantum theory. Maybe it is easier for me to have fun.

Perhaps my expectations of London were set by Spaced and Black Books which is why I’m relatively easy going about the whole thing.

It seems strange that people in a massively metropolitan world capital can not find something enjoyable. If things get boring (like queuing for a random pop up shop) then…find something else to do? There’s a million other possible things to do in this city and constantly doing things you dislike or find disappointing seems about as productive as bashing your head against the wall.

I don’t know if I have a point to this. It was more of an amused rambling if nothing else. I just love this place, ya know? I think the teenage version of myself would think that this was totally awesome. And I tend to agree with my teenage self in this matter. London is a wonderful place. It is the best place. It is full of history and museums and random wonderful events. It needs better cycling infrastructure, but nothing’s perfect. As I finish this, I can hear Big Ben’s chimes come down the river. How cool is that?

Ah, London. Love it or hate it. But just don’t hate it around me. Because you are wrong.