London Belongs To Me

From The Rooftop Bar in London BridgeOn 23 July, 2013, I was issued my biometric residence permit, which I received the following day, 2 days before my post-study work visa was set to expire.

I seem to live my life through close calls.

This residence permit allows me to stay in the UK until 4 August, 2016, so long as I am employed with my current work sponsor. (Support your local brewery, people.) Three more years of trying to figure out my place among the 8 million, among the nearly 63 million. Three more years of eking out some sort of living in The Big Smoke.

It may not be a glorious prize for some, but for me, it is a reward that is enough.

London Belongs To Me

It was fitting that I read Norman Collins‘ London Belongs to Me in June, as the title alone seemed very much like an assertion that yes, I belonged in London, because London belongs to me. Not to me solely, as that would be such wicked conceit. It belongs to all of us who look out on the view of a double decker bus travelling across London Bridge and feel a sense of satisfaction. Yes, I am part of this. Yes, this is my city. It belongs to those of us who feel the same sense of pride along the Overground, looking out at Camden and Kentish Town houses, at Shoreditch street art and graffiti, at the awkward new builds shouldering against older buildings in Hackney Wick and Stratford, at the chaotic jumble of warehouses and train tracks around Clapham Junction, the glorious St Pancras Station.

But not Euston Station. That place is under an eternal fog of grim.

So I found it wonderful to read Norman Collins’ reflections through his many characters of Dulcimer Street, as some of the thoughts, the sentiments about life and London seemed familiar to me–if not to me personally, then perhaps in imaginings and overheard conversations when in the pub, on the bus, in the café, on the train. His characters are still familiar, as they live on even today as we bustle past them to duck into the tube station or pass them on the street.

And what’s more, the London we interact with is remarkably even more vibrant.

Plus, there are kitties.

Institute Place kitty

So, I remain in London, which is a good thing as I seem to encounter a number of people in Stoke Newington and Hackney Central who seem to be in need of directions. And also, people who need good recommendations for pubs.

In other words, I can continue cultivating a sort of local knowledge, while I continue discovering new things about London, as well as exploring the rest of this part of the world.

Liverpool, Do You Feel Lonely

Despite a rather perplexing amount of negative remarks from people who have never been, I was quite interested to go to Liverpool. It was a work trip, but I had a good amount of time during the day to explore the city under my umbrella. Although most of the photos I took on my phone consisted of abandoned buildings near the Baltic Triangle and probably nothing actual residents of Liverpool would take particular pride in (except a great beer festival), I would like to think I made a good go at enjoying the city in the nine or so hours I had. Especially considering I only had about three hours’ worth of sleep.

After a coffee in Bold Street Café, I bought a fitting graphic novel that I read while I avoided the rain, first in a nice teahouse and then in Baltic Bakehouse. I wandered through Chinatown, which I found out later is the oldest Chinese community in Europe. In the end, despite my shoes being soaked like sponges, my sleepless fatigue and the surreal experience of encountering a tourism industry based on Beatlemania, I enjoyed Liverpool very much and am looking forward to a return trip.

Mad Dogs and EnglishmenFurthermore, I am now armed with my friend Tom Jones’ book, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which will give further insight into exploring England. Before the year is out, I am likely to visit Leeds and Manchester for work purposes, and may even wander into Wales for academic reasons.

Also, I’m overdue for a trip to Brighton, so says everyone.

But there is more to explore and more to see, as tickets have been bought to attend a wedding in Italy, by train, thus enabling me to see France en route, which is very exciting. I don’t know if I’ve made it well known on this blog, but my experience of “The Continent” consists of 7 hours in Airport Schiphol coming to and heading from The Philippines with my mother and an interesting yet harrowing 30+ hours in Munich for Oktoberfest. I was having a Hunter S Thompson moment entirely on excessive free beer and lack of sleep surrounded by the disorienting oom-pah! of steins, lederhosen, clevage and wurst.

In comparison, this train journey/wedding jaunt will be far less intense than the bat country of Oktoberfest. Well, maybe save the wedding night celebrations.

Whether on the brink of exploring a continent, a country or a vast city–whether through travelling, through the books I pick up, or by the stories and recommendations of others–I believe I am in the right place for it.

It is here.

hackney sign

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2 Comments

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  1. Excellent post, I feel exactly the same. I lived in places where it can take many years to feel at home, if you ever do. But London? London makes you feel as one with it in a very short time. Love it.

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