I loved this city

I moved to London a little bit more than a year ago, and I fell in love with it right away.
In the beginning, I was intimidated when I walked from our office through Regent Street to the Oxford Circus Tube stop – I couldn’t stop being amazed by the expensively dressed, very busy and important people whizzing down the sidewalk, avoiding running into me. I was amazed by all the tourists, looking at all the fancy stores and buildings, looking in the air, not seeing where the “real Londoners” were trying to get to work, meetings, or home. Because, when you are at home in a city, you don’t look up.

After a while, I walked faster, talked in shorter sentences, and was whizzing by the tourists to get to the Tube – I even figured out I should walk to Green Park instead of Oxford, as it was less littered with visitors and more conductive to fast walking, checking email, and getting my breakfast sandwich. Of course, I felt like I was at home. I accustomed myself to the town, got along with the weather, and with the people that were much tougher and more focused than anyone back home. I made some great friends very quickly, and felt like I belonged.

After about three months, I started missing my home and everything I was used to (moving around a lot, I know that this is what happens every time). I worked incredibly hard and much, travelling a ton, and being busy all around. I still used to go back to Cologne quite a bit, and was always struck by how slow and peaceful things were. At the same time, I couldn’t enjoy that – I felt I was missing out on the action, and was fed up by the slow pace, and couldn’t wait to get back to London.

That was last year. This year, I have made myself a home here. Isa moved over in March, we lived together in my small room for a while, and now we found a gorgeous little place in a quiet street that is just simply beautiful. I work less crazy hours, we go on cool weekend trips, and I am much more of myself again – thinking, reading, and writing, besides being at work and on email all the time. I fell in love again – this time with the beautiful, the quirky, the individual, the incredible London in all its variety.

And now this crap happens. On Sunday, we saw it on the news, TV, and of course Twitter and Facebook. I heard the sirens, and saw the police vans driving around. I biked through a good part of London on Monday, and saw more police than ever before, but still, it was weirdly detached from real life. Then, on Tuesday, we all decided to go home early from work. I saw four big police vans near my bus stop. Nicolas told me how Upper Street, where I lived for a year, was the place for some (thankfully small) gangs to smash windows and steal sporting goods. Friends emailed me links to warnings about Islington (where I live) being the next target. I saw more violent videos, gangs rioting for no cause, setting fire to houses, shops, and family’s livelihoods. More police, more police, and more police.

Today, it felt like it had calmed down a little. We met all of the participants for Seedcamp London, which is taking place tomorrow, and had a great afternoon getting to know their companies, their ideas, and visions for what they want to become. When we were having a beer in the pub around the corner (central London, mind you), two guys come sprinting down the road, followed by a shocked man, who was telling us how these kids had just kicked down his door, standing in his flat with a pair of bricks in their hand, threatening his family. It was so surreal, a bunch of international, good natured, and ambitious entrepreneurs, who couldn’t even understand what he was talking about. Once it sunk in a little, it left an eerie feeling with all of us, and the crowd broke up to go to their hotels and homes. When I rode home on the tube, the usual bumpy ride sent my elbow onto my seat neighbour’s arm (think of a passive aggressive armrest fight on the plane). He started to go off at me, and I of course didn’t want to take it – arguing him for the better part of my ride home. Since he got more and more aggressive, I just backed off – but the sour feeling remained. It was nothing, really, but it upset me. This was my tube, my way home, my city where I felt safe.

Whatever it is, a disconnection of environments, a lack of communication between people, or just plain reality, I liked it much more before I felt this way. I hope it will come back, but I think we need to work a lot on what we have before it will be that way.
At least I include myself in the We, which makes me think I care enough to help bring about that change. Whining like this won’t help, but being aware is the first step, as they say.

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  1. Hi Philipp

    It’s been a very sad period for the majority of Londoners over the last week, I haven’t known anything like it in 14 years. I was sorry to read about your experience on the tube, really not good.

    I wanted to tell you that your post most certainly is not “whining” and I genuinely hope that the “old feeling” does eventually return.

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