London again. A part of me loves this city. I don’t know why, memories from a past life perhaps? That subconscious knowledge that actually, deep down, I am from here? I belong here? Who knows?
I am sitting in a Starbucks Café (of course! Why not?) in a rich part of Central London called Fulham and Chelsea. This is not where we live in London, but we are here bright and early for a dance competition not far from Earl’s Court, and there was so little traffic on the way in (no traffic into London!) that we arrived an hour early, and so have found a blessed oasis of home in a city that, as much as I enjoy London, still feels somewhat foreign to me. This is perhaps the only reason I support the citadel of commercial coffee (that, and because I own their stock); when I go into the cafes at home, I feel safe when I wander into a Starbucks abroad. It’s an abode.
The weather is really beautiful here. Of course, nothing stays the same in London as far as weather goes. One moment the sun explodes upon the teeming city with the exuberance of a young, female exhibitionist, delighting in the shock her suddenly exposed breasts imparts upon her astonished audience. Then, as discreetly as the coquette might be, she hides once again behind her misty robes of clouds. She sheds a few tears, as if she cannot bear to be so clothed, and awaits the next moment when she might bare herself again.
Fulham and Chelsea is an exceptionally beautiful part of London. I don’t have to mention that the streets are small. Every street in London is small. But the buildings are all of this gleaming red brick and ivory white paint, and kept up rather well. It’s a nice change of pace. In Cheam, where we live far south of the Thames, the ivory paint is rarely kept up to the degree of the Chelsea Standard, and the red brick has been allowed to dim so much (perhaps it didn’t even start red to begin with) that it’s now a dull colour of drying mud, streaked with black and the occasional stain of moss.
The sun glances off the white trim of the buildings and eventually filters down to the street, where it reflects off bright green leaves of trees lining the streets and hardly makes its way to the wrought iron fence separating the streets from the strangely un-bubblegum-marred pavement of the sidewalks. It’s moments like this that I truly appreciate what London has to offer, not the worn down, decrepit state of Norbury or Streatham or parts of Cheam, but the kempt and clean streets of Fulham and Chelsea, which further north then mould into the majesty of the Royal Albert Hall and, at last, the breathtaking aura of Kensington Palace. Yes, a part of me loves this city. A part of me will keep bringing me back, even after I have retired from competing and even, much further in the future, judging and coaching. When I have nothing but the allure of a city not built for the 21st century, yet disguised to smile upon the modern world, confident that no one will see the truth, I will still come back.