FINDING BALANCE – somewhere between terror and contentment

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The attack

A terrorist attack has always seemed like such a monumental, earth shattering shared experience for a city, well, for the whole bloody world. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday 22nd March 2017. As horrific scenes unfolded on Westminster Bridge on a very bog standard Wednesday afternoon, the rest of us carried on working, and come 6pm, we headed home on the same public transport that we took home every day, regardless of the height of the city’s security risk. Eyelids were barely bat. Feelings were felt, for sure, on a personal level, and shared amongst family and friends that evening, but fear was not instilled into our hearts. There is a bizarre and very staunch resilience to Londoners. They are not fazed. It sure hardens you, this city, and not in a brisk, cold, Dickensian way, just in a ‘life goes on’ kind of way.

On Thursday, we all woke up at 6:30, had a shower, and set off for the train station at 8am. We stood on the Overground, almost physically embedded into the armpit of a person we did not know. We chewed gum, avoided eye contact and silently judged people’s handbag brands and the thickness of their tights. We dealt with the backlog of passengers on the Northern line, thanks to the closure Westminster station and we walked the mile and a half to work from London Bridge station. It is bizarre. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ has never had such precedence! This is the nature of the British people and I am quizzically charmed by it. Well, on this occasion, because I find myself impressed. Generally though, I do miss the cosy and intrusive nature of the Mediterranean people. Hence why I seek out Spanish people at all and every opportunity. I think I speak more Spanish in London than I ever did in Spain.

The darling buds of May

As April falls behind us like a distant memory, the golden clutches of spring have taken the city in its grasp, and the rose tinted hues of the mid-afternoon sky are glorious. There’s an Instagram filter lingering in the tepid May air and it stretches out long into the evening like a gilded sheet. People fill the parks, sprawled across every free patch of grass, they walk the wide pavements and they drink wine and fruit cider into the extended twilight. London in the spring is a pure dream, a veritable ocean of possibility and immovable contentment. I am finally happy in my own company, and some of the neuroses have been eaten away. I think it’s because I’m writing again for a reputable big city publication. I’m making an honest woman of myself. This has, however, brought about a very real shopping affliction, which I justify as a part of the necessary transition into my newfound City of London journo status. I can’t tell you why this means so much to me, but it does. I’ve always been all about the status. Status is a measure of intelligence and intelligence is of utmost value. Despite much of time now spent probing Swedish CEOs for insider business information, I find the time to manage my studies and desperately keep myself awake through literature lectures. Somehow, I don’t feel like I’m so far away from everything anymore, because as a grand sage once told me, you’re not missing out on anything when you’re getting stuff done. I have a lot less time to explore, but those free afternoons I do venture off into far reaching corners of the capital, I enjoy so much more, seeking out famous vegan street food vendors in Hackney, meandering through racks of vintage clothing on Brick Lane, lazing under a huge tree for an afternoon of reading in Hyde Park, creeping in the seedy depths of Greenwich comedy clubs, drinking rosé in the garden at the pub next door, and standing in front of my favourite deejays on a rooftop in Soho’s theatre district.

Farewell to my literary buddies

So many of the niggling inconveniences I so desperately sought to shy away from, I suddenly find myself embracing, like some sick acceptance of inevitable adulthood. These days I’m quite happy to tell that pushy microphone touting, almighty believer, exactly why it’s not ok for them to be imposing their views so heavily on everyone, or turn back into Starbucks to tell the barista she mistakenly gave me dairy milk. ‘Oh no, I can’t have another drink I have to go home to bed, I know it’s nine o’clock, I have to get up for work at half six. No, no I can’t go to work tired or hangover,’ I hear myself saying over and over again, taking a moment to feel the cringe of the words spilling out of my mouth in a responsible and really rather lame manner, and yet, I feel no shame at all. There’s no tiny voice in the back of my head desperate to get up to mischief and cause some sense of uneasiness. I just want to go to bed, sleep well, and get up to go to work and drink turmeric and ginger tea, eat an offputtingly balanced and healthy lunch, and feel like I’ve progressed even the slightest amount. It’s the end of an era. I think I’m finally a real person. A real person that has end of year exams looming in the not too far distance. It baffles me why they set us up to study at this time of year. After five months of baron bitterness and 4pm darkness, and I should be staring at my own reflection reciting Prufrock’s love song in Eliot’s almost exact, half-dead dulcet tones. Four weeks left and I am free of this literary affliction. Oh but how I will miss my now very good friends; Swift, Byron, Shelley, Burns, Poe, Woolf, even you Brontë. I’ll see you next term, for more absurdly intrusive readings of your most treasured musings. Admittedly, university has not proved everything I thought it would be, but I have found my place somewhere in the middle, an unsheltered student.