I didn’t expect to, but I fell in love with London. I liked the twisting roads. The fruit and veg stalls set up in the street with their scents of banana and guava and onion. The sound of different languages humming together.
I liked the red double-deckers and the black cabs. The way the pollarded trees lining the streets look like the extended necks of giraffes. The way the rain turns to mist turns to rain turns to sun turns to mist again.
I liked riding the tube beneath the bustling streets: the way the voice says mind the gap when you get on and off. The strangeness of emerging back into the world again, blinking in the misty air as the flow of people moves around you as though you are a stone in a river.
I like the gilding on the royal gates with a backdrop of silver cloud. The pastel palette of Portobello Road. The way that Westminster Abbey makes you crane your neck back so far that you almost fall over backwards into the German tourists behind you.
I like the coffee (especially this coffee). The jam doughnuts from St. John bakery filled with rhubarb marmalade (thanks Brian). Ottolenghi. Sitting in Hyde Park and watching the swans in the twilight.
But most of all, I like the way when you first turn down any one of those many cobble stoned streets with the red brick or grey brick terraces – or the posh versions with their pastel colours and glossy iron railings – there is a moment, before you look down and see the cars and the girl walking towards you in stilettos on her mobile phone – when you wonder if you might have just walked back in time. When it seems completely possible that Sherlock Holmes and Watson might come speeding round the corner in a horse pulled hansom. That Charles Dickens might come meandering out of an alleyway with a brightly coloured satin waist-jacket, checking his pocket watch and whistling. That a woman might emerge out of one of the many glossy black doors in a veiled hat and bustled gown, carrying a parasol in her white gloved hand.
Every where you look, ghosts of the past are whispering. You can hear the rustle of petticoats. The clipping of black patent leather shoes. You can stand beside a lamp post and think about how many human beings have stood in the very spot you are now standing, watching the rain fall and listening to the sounds of life as evening settles down.
So yes, London, you have made your mark.