London houses are built for people to sleep in, not to live in, London pavements are deprived of trees and its park lawns are painfully liveless. London air is a condensed tangle of destructive energy, blistering cold and intrinsically male.
I arrive in the middle of a work day. The subway is cramped and there is little space for my tiny bag, people are aggressive and rude, though no one expresses their aggravation explicitly. As I walk down the streets I can feel thousands stares of eyes, peering hungrily at me from all the corners, they make me paranoid and overly defensive about my personal space. I’ve been to London once and I clearly remember how I hated the city back then. Why then I decide to visit again? I needed to feel the thrill of big city, I wanted to get rid of boredom, flee my comfort zone and get a refill of inspiration and loneliness – that magical cocktail that bolsters creativity.
London has this weird heroin chic vibe, perfectly reflected in its austere architecture and grey color palette. Comfort is a non existent notion here, so as good food, warm company and cozy evening dinners. There is no place for complacency. You don’t come to London for relaxed vacation, you come here for experience – and if you are lucky to stay here long enough you will be praised by endless career opportunities and showered with entertainment options, you will have access to some of the best thought provoking art and vibrant music scene and all of that in the middle of the crazy nightlife. London lacks genuine connections, but it gives you the immense energy in return so that you can explore, create and learn.
On my third day in the city I met a guy from Romania, who sold his car and rented out his apartment to get to London. He then found a dishwasher job at a restaurant. I asked him why he made the decision to move. He said: “I don’t know… It was my dream to live in London. I know I can make it here” After some time, looking at his old mobile phone he bought instead of a smartphone that he had to sell, he added: “It is an experience.” It made me think about the concept of a dream city. We tend to idealise certain places, because they are publicized by media and they promise so much. But dream cities are not just about well advertised image, there is a notion about those places that it is entirely dependent on you whether you fail or succeed, that if you work hard, you can achieve anything, that you alone make your own destiny. And then even if it does not work out, the thought of having the experience remains the source of strength for all the following years. This notion of individual achievement is the most empowering belief ever invented by humanity.
So is London a cultural magnet of Europe or is it an ultimate surviving experiment? I do not know. It is 3 am at night, I am sitting at the Gatwick airport, I did some exciting sightseeing in the city but I can not wait to get out of it. I haven’t written a single piece of writing in three months yet here I am typing down notes about London. Apparently, cities like this makes us push boundaries.