In recent weeks and months, sudden news of unsuspecting closedowns have come as a surprise to this now-once-upon-a-time-resident-but forever-a-Londoner-at-heart.
London is a city that brings out the nostalgia in me and as memories pour down on me my face lights up with joy. I have wonderful memories of good times with friends, solitary times with a grande latte in one hand and a wrinkled book in another, and beautiful summer days with my then boyfriend and now husband.
It's the city where I watched my first Rugby Union World Cup match in 2004, where I watched a moving performance from the cast of Les Miserables, and where I lived in a beautiful semi-attached brick house in North Finchley.
It's where I got my first real job as a professional and where I fell in love with the man who is now my partner in life.
I never feel like an outsider in the city. London is home to anyone who wants to make it a home, and who wants to lead a life full of beauty and intrigue. It is a multicultural city in the deepest sense of the word. Residency is not dependent on birthright, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and overall, cultural background.
To be a Londoner is to live in the city and love it with a tender heart.
But despite the city's exuberant spirit and heart of a wild rose, an era is indeed coming to an end. The era I knew to be the London of my bursting youth is slowly disappearing.
In 2003 and 2004 I got to know London for a few months and I immediately felt a connection to the city. However, at the time, I wasn't quite ready to stick around for the summer as I wanted to spend the summer far away from the cityscape on a beautiful little island.
Then in 2005, I was ready to make a deeper commitment to the city and returned to find a proper professional job and proper place to live. With both goals accomplished (and while accomplishing them) I so enjoyed my life in the city that never sleeps.
As before, I frequented my usual beverage establishments from previous years while discovering new ones along the way.
An old-time favourite remained to be the Walkabout. Yes, it could be bit cheesy at times. But maybe, just maybe, it was the slice of cheese that made a night out at the Walkie in Temple, Shaftesbury Avenue and even the one in Covent Garden, such a carnival. The Temple was my absolute favourite. The mood was light but amicable, and the nights were a mix of youthful enthusiasm and liquid happiness.
Much to my surprise, news of the original Walkie in Shepherd Bush and the Covent Garden one, reached my ears early this year. I hope the Temple one won't be met with the same fate but who knows, perhaps the face of London is changing and a new chain of international bars will be the new hangout for the natives of the nations down under, as well as everyone else.
Even more disappointingly is the shocking news that the Slug and Lettuce in Fulham is closing its doors. The reason it is particularly upsetting is the fact that it holds a special memory of a night I'll never forget.
After a couple of months of convincing myself I was not interested in my now husband as anything more than a friend, I had to catch my breath when an attractive female showed him the interest I had not allowed myself to do. Thankfully, he picked up on my sudden burst of realisation and we've been together ever since.
We have always talked about going back to the Slug and Lettuce for a snakebite or two when we are in London, but it simply never happened and I suppose it's too late now. The memory lives on whether the Slug and Lettuce is open or not. It just would have been something special to return if only for one night.
Being a young person in London with family an airplane crossing away, it is the friends who assume the support role of a family and that is enough in a city where life is about discovering your identity and have an adventure.
|The blue house (not the house with the blue door if you catch my meaning) in Notting Hill continues to be my dream house in the city. Photo by JB.|
Granted that the last surprise turned out to be a South African richer in kindness and patience than any man I'd ever met before (despite my having frequented an Aussie bar over the years, and yes, scoping out a few native men while at it) is truly the most beautiful chapter in my London story.
|Portabello Road is as charming in autumn as it is in the height of summer. Photo by JB.|
Perhaps, as we have grown into a new life together and learned a great deal since about the people we are and want to be, the city of London is changing too. Perhaps, it is time for a new chain of bars to be the place of legends for a new generation of twenty-somethings in search of adventures.
Change is, after all, the natural rhythm of life...