Blue skies replace the usual grey. Streaks of red flash as buses pass by the window. Perhaps it would feel more typical London were I to be sipping tea instead of a cappuccino. But I've always been a coffee girl, and that much hasn't changed.
As I eat a bite of banana bread off a delicately patterned floral plate, I peer across the street at people bustling about. They stream from both sides, passing telephone booths, a pub, and window sills adorned with pink and purple flowers. It seems right enough.
Cities are curious in the way they each seem to have such distinctive personalities.
London to me is a contrary old man, stubborn enough about his ways, but quite the charmer when he wants to be. He never pretends to offer more than he has and can admittedly be a bit dreary at times. Catch him at the right time though and it's a different story entirely. You can look past his stubborn and tedious temperament to see his value. He may come across as aloof and indifferent, not seeming to care about you and how you're feeling, but sometimes this indifference is precisely what you need. Feeling small in a city forces you to draw from yourself a way to feel bigger. There's no dependence on affirmation, and London certainly doesn't care to validate you based on the image of yourself you've been trying so hard to sell. There's a certain loss of vanity that comes from a city that doesn't care who you are, who you've worked with or where you've been. His indifference creates a level playing field and a loosening on an obsession to impress—a loosening that allows you to start doing things simply, and completely, just for yourself.
He may not go out of his way to make you feel secure, but strike up the right conversations, and he will meet you where you are.
He'll find you in a cosy little shop where you ducked in to avoid the rain. He'll keep you company as you write there for hours. He'll engage your conversation about the blues bar you love. He'll introduce you to people burning with passion—people who care to make a stand as they attempt to make a difference in this world. He'll talk music, he'll talk film, he'll talk literature, he'll talk politics. And each conversation will bring with it bits of perspective and bits of growth. You can complain about his expensive tastes, but he'll probably simply shrug and push his glasses back. He's old and stubborn after all. And stubborn or not, you're grateful for his company.
After coming into contact with the personalities of many cities over the years, London's character is one I've grown to really appreciate. Under the umbrella of this city's seeming indifference to me, I came to more fully embrace who I am and what I want. Despite my seeming insignificance as I join the sea of people flooding onto the underground everyday, there's still the significance that's created in pursuing the things that add value to my life. And there's still the significance of the people, places and experiences that have pulled me through and colored the days of my passing time.
As I push in my chair and leave my cappuccino cup behind, I know I'll be back, perhaps to write again tomorrow. It's a typical day in London and though my time in this city got off to a bit of a bumpy start, I couldn't be happier to have met this old man.
Enjoying and learning from this chapter as the pages turn