By Marian Connor

I was thinking about London…

I was listening to the radio recently and Robert Elms spoke about how much he loved London. It set me thinking about how enamoured I am by her too. Yes I think of London as a female, have since my childhood perhaps initially from listening to my father refer “to her” with such affection that it seeped into my consciousness. We have had a long happy relationship although there are times I wonder if anything could be done to up my fondness quota?

What could she do to boost my affection? Lots I am sure. Maybe promise a minimum six months of glorious weather, the perfect amount of daily sunshine accompanied by a balmy breeze and occasional early morning rain shower to cleanse the pavements and the air so the world awakens clean and refreshed.

I would like not to take a short bus ride that transpires to take the same amount of time as a Eurostar journey and whilst taking it to be subjected to other peoples music leaking out of dodgy headphones and other peoples food aromas wafting out of polystyrene boxes.

Perhaps she could work it so that all my favourite watering holes have my ideal spots by the window or the terrace available to me at any time I fancy going along and that all the staff are exhibiting an exuberant joie de vivre to one and all.

But even with her flaws I still think London is a cracker, as do many others. 8 million and counting can’t be wrong. Amongst her number is the journalist Grace Dent who recently wrote, alongside her regular restaurant column review in the ES magazine, a love letter to Londinium. I already enjoy her writing but this article about my favourite city, made me fall a little bit in love with Grace. Anyone who is that fond of her and wants to tell you deserves my affection.

So to show my appreciation I have created a small shrine to ‘La Dent’ to which I will make offerings of her favourite foodstuffs and occasionally anoint with a cheeky cocktail.

A Shrine to Grace Dent - a handmade collage by 8 in the Universe

Obviously London has shortcomings, don’t we all? You cannot ignore the grime when on badly polluted days the result of blowing your nose is reminiscent of living in a candle lit world.

Or when the traffic grinds to a painful crawl and the amplification of emergency vehicles makes its way through the conversation you’re having on your mobile, like a slap to your ears. So forceful it almost requires one of those vehicles to deliver a medic to placate your eardrums.

Best not to get started on the cost of city living because protracted mithering about overpriced cafes, bars and transport serve no purpose and result in sounding curmudgeonly.

The alternative to her shortcomings is to live elsewhere clean, traffic free, quiet and cheap. If that place exists it may be attractive to some, but I would wither and die like an uprooted plant.

To really appreciate London you need to explore her. She is panoply of discoveries:

Streets to walk emitting history for you to absorb

All human life to observe and encounter

Art and architecture to wonder at

The river and countless green spaces to delight in

She is like a Pandora’s Box of faces, colours and cultures. Music, sound and tastes. Textures, fashion and language. A whole world waiting for you to lift the lid and explore its contents.

I will celebrate big blousy London with her mood swings, short temper and occasional hissy fits.

I will follow many generations of my family living out their lives in East London. Perhaps, some of them had little alternative but to stay put, due to poor job prospects and little opportunity for education or mobility. But thanks to their hard work and tenacity I found myself born here and although I have had opportunities for alternatives, I choose to stay. London and her energy are as integral to me, to who I am, as the genetics of those who have gone before me.

If your relationship with London could do with a little couples counselling why not consider giving her a bit more attention? She has a very generous personality so whilst experiencing some of her delightful attributes you have the perfect opportunity to nurture yourself and your relationship by exercising mindfulness. Being more conscious of the world you encounter makes it possible to make friends with your surroundings and find more pleasure there. It is a tool to counteract stress that has a sneaky habit of creeping up uninvited if you feel your environment is inhospitable.

Here is a little amuse bouche to tickle your taste buds:

Watching the beauty of sunrises over historic buildings and sunsets between glittery skyscrapers

Vibrant markets with their cacophony of activity and music.

The tranquillity of walking over bridges when it’s quiet and spending a moment with the sun’s twinkle on the water.

The City of London on a deserted Sunday morning when you can feel the history bouncing off the pavements.

Listening to St Paul’s Cathedral bells in Paternoster Square.

This city is waiting for you to embrace her. Point your feet out of the door and give her a squeeze. Enjoy.


Image: Tile/Header – ‘Sun’, Anonymous, circa 1720, a cast iron street sign from a pharmacy in Whitechapel, on loan from the Museum of London to Tate BritainTime Out London 2281

Image: My shrine to La Dent collage – my own, I am a true product of a Blue Peter childhood


Copyright © 8 in the Universe Limited 2014.  All rights reserved

Photo of Marian Connor and black text saying "Always looking over the horizon to discover treasures to share. Often times whilst partaking of a fine red."