I grew up in South West London. I think of myself as a Londoner of sorts, but I know that London is a series of villages just sewn together essentially and as such I am still a tourist in many parts of the capital. When I was in my 20s and visited central London with a group of American girls who I’d become friends with at University (in Brighton) I was, embarrassingly, a bit useless as a tour guide and one of the Americans was far more savvy about where we were at any given time.
But I know the parts I know well – I studied at (what was) the London College of Printing in South London at 18 and I did my Masters at City University in Islington, North London, some years later. I have worked at Shell Centre on the South Bank (linked via walkway to Waterloo station) and the Royal Chartered Institute of Surveyors in Parliament Square (my most vivid memory of which was peeking out the window watching Chris Eubank drive his monster truck round the square blaring the horn in protest against the ‘illegal wars’ in 2007 (he later went on to be arrested after parking illegally outside Downing St and nearly colliding with a double decker bus!).
My parents often used to take us to see child friendly musicals and plays at the National Theatre and treat us to meals and days out and about round Covent Garden – a magical place filled with street entertainers and, when I was a child, one of the flagship Body Shop stores, a wooden toyshop like an Aladdin’s cave of treasures and The Covent Garden General Store – where I first discovered the delights of Jelly Belly jellybeans with all their fascinating flavours (Later, during my days working at Shell we used to gather at the Long Island Iced Tea Shop for cocktails if anyone had a hen do or leaving party – and there I discovered even more fascinating flavours!) I discovered Camden as a teenager and adored the series of quirky cool interconnected markets around the canal. I’ve even had one of my book group meetings in the living quarters inside the Tower of London (where one of the girl’s army boyfriends was stationed at the time).
Those are my London credentials if you will, but I have to admit it’s been years since I really enjoyed London life and I miss it. I moved out to darkest Surrey/Hampshire in 2008 and this is where I have started a family.
The hubster is born and bred Surrey though. He had a stint working for BTP out of Waterloo which, it seems to me from anecdotes, mostly consisted of grappling drunks off tube trains and picking up body parts from railway lines. It’s little wonder that he has negative feelings towards this bustling metropolis, but leaves us somewhat at loggerheads with regards the children. I want to introduce my adorable munchkins to the joys of a city I know and love, he’s not so keen.
London has some amazing fun opportunities for children – I would love to see the wonder in their eyes at the sight of the London Eye, or the excitement at travelling on an underground train or catching a glimplse of the big pelicans in St James’ Park. The museum of transport, the museum of childhood, the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum or twiddling dials and knobs at the Science Museum.
And there are so many things I want to see and places I want to visit too – the Shard wasn’t even built when I last commuted to London.
One day soon…