The View from London – A Personal Account

The following blog was written by Reece Lipman, a member of the Chocolate Films Team.

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The View from London

London is funny old city. There’s really nowhere like it in the world. New York is metropolitan and culturally epic, Paris has the charm and the history, Milan the style but really none of them have everything that London has. So why do I find myself constantly veering between hating this place and loving it?

Woody Allen once said of New York “I can’t with any conscience argue for New York with anyone. It’s like Calcutta. But I love the city in an emotional, irrational way, like loving your mother or your father even though they’re a drunk or a thief“. That’s the exact relationship I have with London. Expect for 3 years spent in Birmingham and few months spent on the East Coast of America I’ve lived in London my whole life. My family has lived here for about 95 years, my favourite football team are from London and most of my memories growing up involve some part of this city. You could say that in some way it is imprinted on my DNA, like a genetic imperfection shaping me in various ways, from my obsession with subcultures to the fact I don’t pronounce my h’s properly.

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By the river in Greenwich

As with anything though, I find myself getting bored and frustrated with the city sometimes. It is perfectly normal to go through periods of loving something and getting tired of it of course, we all do it with songs, food, movies etc but my feelings towards London go beyond that. I’m constantly fluxuating between singing London’s praises or mouthing that verse from Sweeny Todd –

There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren’t worth what a pig could spit
and it goes by the name of London.

Ok, so that might seem a little extreme but the sentiment is there.

I write all this because I’ve had these exact changes of heart again over the last few weeks. I recently moved to a new part of town, back to East London where I am originally from, having lived in West London for the past 2 years. This means that every morning on my way to work I pass through the corporate jungle that is Canary Wharf, with all of its soulless steel structures and workers running from meeting to meeting in the same grey suits. I’m tired in the mornings anyway but I found myself growing ever more frustrated with the rush hour, trapped in this sea of normality, this grey world which I needed to escape from. London had become stifling, suffocating any creativity or happiness. I had the same feeling last year and found myself spontaneously booking 2 weeks camping in deserts in South Western Africa… Anything to get as far away as possible. The city was getting to me and I was ready to run away again.

Then last week a close friend of mine was visiting from LA so I spent the time showing her around, taking her to the places in London I felt she needed to see. We did the touristy walk through Green Park to the palace and down to Westminster, we went on the London Eye, had a curry in Brick Lane, walked up Primrose Hill etc etc.

Primrose Hill at sunset

Primrose Hill at sunset

And you know what? I started to fall in love again.

Sure, Docklands is soulless but where else in the world can you visit a centuries old tea clipper and the royal naval college before going across the river to view the very essence of modern architecture? I can’t think of anywhere that comes close. Plus, speaking of Greenwich, the view from the Observatory has to be one of the greatest views in the country. You can see everything, from the bright lights of the city to the towering majesty of St Paul’s Cathedral on the horizon. I find it funny that whilst standing on what might be the most important longitudinal timeline in the world, time was able to stand completely still.

I’m sure that within a few weeks, when the Christmas tourists arrive and start standing on the wrong side of the escalators on the tube I’ll find my displeasure with the city growing again but for now I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world I’d rather be.

Doesn’t that sum up London itself though? A city of contrasting opinions and constant change….

What is your relationship with the city like? Let us know any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Posted by:   /  15th Oct, 2013