A London Obsession

Gosh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

This blog has been sadly neglected as I’ve been quite busy with work (I’ve got a new job), schemes, life, etc. My food blog was being updated quite frequently until recently, and there’s always something sort of new on Abandoned in London. Plus, I’ve been writing for my new employer, Great British Chefs. You can read one of my posts here in which I bring up a failed moment in my love life. One of many, I should add.

And of course spouting my usual silly hoo and ha on Twitter.

Lately, though, I’ve had a lot on my mind that doesn’t really seem to fit anywhere else. And since I don’t really have the decency to keep a personal handwritten journal (though I may need to revive this old habit), I thought I’d spill my thoughts here.

Yesterday I attended a talk featuring authors Mark Mason and Craig Taylor who have each written books about London. The talk was a part of Stoke Newington Literary Festival, and it was called “A London Obsession.” As someone who is rather London obsessed, I enjoyed the talk immensely and purchased a copy of Craig Taylor’s book, Londoners, in which he interviews normal, everyday Londoners and shares their stories and experiences in the city. I’m excited to begin reading it, as I think it’s a brilliant idea to write a book on, and I’ve heard lots of good things about it. Iain Sinclair’s review on the book is pretty great, if you need any more convincing.

Plus, I think his Twitter account is pretty damn amazing.

After the talk, I went with my fantastic housemate Clare to play a rainy game of crazy golf on top of Selfridges. Fittingly, the course was based on familiar London buildings and monuments.

Aside from the rain, the mini golf was pretty fun, and it was interesting to see fanciful interpretations of London icons. (If you’re keen to play, you can buy tickets via Bompas & Parr’s website.)

After Field Day on Saturday, I went to a small house party and was in discussion with someone about American perceptions of the United Kingdom, as well as British perceptions of America. It was an interesting conversation, as I think my concepts of “Britishness” differed from friends of mine who watched a lot of BBC America and are big fans of British television. If I had any expectations of what Britain would be like, it came more from C. S. Lewis than from Absolutely Fabulous. 

When walking back from Clissold House after the book talk, I thought about my preconceived notions of London–the influences and impressions I had of the city before moving here: photographs of Swinging London, Disney animation through The Great Mouse Detective and Peter Pan, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The biggest of them all, though, would be The Clientele, particularly their earlier albums and EPs. In fact, one of their songs inspired me to move to Holloway, back when I knew nothing of London’s many areas. Their music was first shared with me through a future ex-boyfriend on a mix CD before I left for Thailand back in 2002, and I’ve been an ardent fan ever since, as my Last.fm account can prove.

Funnily, whenever I mention the band to anyone here in London, not many people know who I’m talking about. Any other fans of The Clientele out there? Holla.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much longer I can be a Londoner, or in my case, a London dear. My first year on my visa is nearly up, and at this halfway point, I can’t help but feel anxious, to the point where my worries have permeated so much of my life and interactions with others. When people first meet me, I am often asked if I want to stay here in London. Unless the inquirer is also from outside of the EU, they have no idea how much that question rips me apart. If only it were so easy to be merely a matter of choice.

Being someone with a social science/creative background whose employment background in this country, until recently, has been mostly in shops and one very good pub, I can’t say I’m amazingly optimistic about my chances to stay here.

But I’m trying. And if I have to leave, I want to be able to leave knowing I’ve done everything I could–save anything fraudulent, as I can imagine my father flying over here and personally pulling me by the ear back to Florida if he thought I was doing anything illegal. He’d do it, too, probably unleashing a few of his sailor swears at me on the flight back. He’d probably even ground me.

Joking aside, the visa deadline looms like a spectre in the background of everyday life as I go to work, meet with friends, read books, go to shows, look out the windows of buses and trains, watch people, take photos of things I find interesting. Everything I do, there is this shadow, an encroaching trepidation, a sadness that someday I might not be able to climb up to the top deck of a bus and get to sit up at the front to watch the city go by. Someday I may not be able to meet up with a friend for a drink at The Jolly Butchers. Someday I might not be able to stumble upon a stencil from Stewy or a piece by ROA that I’ve never seen before. Someday I may not walk these streets and stop, struck by the curious beauty of something or another, something mundane yet magical.

At times when I dwell on it all too much, I feel like a fox who knows the hounds are about. And eventually, they will come.

It’s up to me to make sure I put up a good fight.

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