Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Big Smoke

There's something about the idea of so many people living in one place, closely packed together but largely unconnected, that makes me feel overwhelmed. Just the logistics of how all of those people move around the city every day without large amounts of disaster and trauma baffles me.

I can get quite anxious when I start to think about the consumption that happens here. I don't just mean the unrelenting temptation to spend money, but the simple things like a carton of milk...how on earth are dairy farmers managing to produce enough milk for all those millions of people? What is happening to all that plastic? Is it even possible to feed this many people ethically? My ideas and beliefs about how we need to live smaller, closer to the land and to each other seem somewhat naive in the face of such complexity and scale.

Because of this, I generally approach visits to London with some trepidation. One of my oldest friends lives here with her family and seeing them is reason enough to brave the journey but since having children I have found little pleasure in the city's other offerings. It always seems to take an age to get anywhere, a long walk at best, an assortment of buses and undergrounds at worst. The boys are usually exhausted and emotional before lunchtime, and by the end of the day I've joined them in a chorus of despair.

But this time, something different happened. Something surprising and affirming. Maybe it was because the boys were a little older; maybe it was because they had their scooters so that long walks became fast and fun; maybe it was managing a significant trip across town with the boys on my own with no tears; maybe it was the sunshine; or perhaps it was just a growing sense of familiarity...but I genuinely enjoyed my stay.

I'm starting to understand that without big cities, there's no big architecture, big mass gatherings of people, or really big ambitious, seemingly impossible, ideas. It's been said before but London really is the universe in a nutshell; pavements full of the pounding feet of people from all nationalities, ages and social backgrounds, buildings that beggar belief, movement and action, history and knowledge. I am so grateful that my children will be familiar with this place, confident with the mayhem and the scale

And this time, on the way to Highbury play park - I realised that London's parks are everywhere. From the wide sweeping vistas of Hyde Park to the little greens hidden at the hearts of the various villages that make up this city. These parks are full of incredibly old and noble trees; their branches filling the sky whilst their relinquished leaves fill up the pavements. Places to stop and breath, to rest the eyes and restore the spirit.

As my two very energetic children will also attest, London's parks surely contain the very best play equipment in the land.

I have a feeling this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.


sustainablemum said...

I grew up near London and regularly visited throughout my childhood but now I feel the same as you. I find the place over stimulating, too busy, too noisy and dirty. I am exhausted when I leave. I know what you mean about the parks tho they are great.

Selina Gough said...

Yes! Exhausted is how I usually feel but this time it lifted me. Have you been recently?