Why I smile…

I still listen to this song every time I leave London.

I used to listen to it because I was sad to be leaving London, a city which has at various points embraced me into worlds that I could never have imagined. I listen to it now because it reminds me of what a pompous idiot I was. It does bring back memories though but now it brings hope too. I get a train to Grimsby when I visit my family and when I leave, it is with the heaviest of hearts. For all the wonders of the world, well, your (I’m sure yours are great but here I mean mine) family are the first and best I think.

Everywhere I arrive and everywhere I leave, I collect something inside me that I hope helps me grow that little bit more. Visiting my friend Chris in Nottingham is always such an incredible adventure and he shows such wonderful hospitality to me that I always wish I could do it more. Every time I leave it is with a tear. Tears from leaving though are tears for great memories made and shared and as soon as the tears are dry, you plan the next adventure.

Here are ten things that I have done in London that I have loved:
(This isn’t a Top 10 list, just a list of ten great things that I’ve done)

1. I have spoken and debated in Parliament.

2. I went to see my favourite band in the world, Angus and Julia Stone, at a small venue in London with only £5 in my pocket. I jumped the train and ended up jumping it again at 5.30am in the morning after having been to the gig, to Travis’s album launch party, discussed my Uncle’s love for Travis’s music with Fran Healy, then on an all expenses bar crawl that finished in China town before stumbling back to Waterloo for the first train.

3. Danced topless and sweaty with one of my best friends in G-A-Y to embarrass my sister who at the time had a crush on the guy.

4. Took a group of wonderful friends from Grimsby to see the Rat Pack show, we arrived late, sprinted through Covent Garden in suits and burst into the theatre, only to be heckled by Frank Sinatra as we tried to find our seats.

5. Been to the ballet, to see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Manon, amongst others.

6. Danced with bare feet on the grass in Hyde Park to Kings of Leon who were playing live a few hundred feet away. Also in Hyde Park I saw the excellent Pulp.

7. Met many people that I admire greatly, including Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman.

8. Been clubbing and to gigs with Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Jamie T, Lily Allen, Laura Marling, The Holloways and many more in my time as a gig host and DJ.

9. Got a limo to central London and stood out of the sun roof drinking champagne

10. Dressed as a zombie for a pub crawl and ended up being in a Portuguese horror film as an extra.

These things are mostly uniquely London but not all of them. What they are though, they are uniquely my London. I didn’t have room in there to mention watching operations from inside theatres, to being on the radio and television and the countless music, comedy and poetry gigs that I have attended.

I was talking to my Mum the other day and she said, you seem to be really enjoying London life. I thought, yes it has being good to me and it has taken me to nice places with interesting people but more than that, it has helped me to discover things about myself, others and this city.

I used to be a little short sighted and think the world ended at zone 6. It seemed

Benedict Cumberbatch and I

inconceivable that I could leave because I may miss something and god forbid I MISS something.

As I have got older, I have enjoyed going home more because I feel relaxed now and feel that I have achieved enough that even I can feel slightly proud of myself. That’s the thing with parents, they (should) love unconditionally (mine do) and support you whatever happens and whatever mistakes you make and so you want to make them proud. You work so hard trying to make them proud that you forget about all you have achieved and how that is already making them proud. Working yourself into the ground with worry won’t make them proud but being a good person, working hard and standing up for your beliefs will.

Writing this food blog is helping me engage with a whole side of myself, one of discovery and one that was born in London but will doubtlessly lead elsewhere sooner or later. It is a great feeling to walk around the city, eat in nice restaurants and go to the bars you want to go to because so many people don’t get to do the same.

When I was in Nepal a few years ago, working with children who had been trafficked and horribly abused, I asked them: Did they think I was selfish for having the life I did over in England?

Their reply:

“You’re selfish if you don’t enjoy it. If you don’t smile, then why should we because we have so little.”

 

 

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