My time spent in London seemed long and tedious. I saw some awesome things I had never seen before, but it was without. It was supposed to be the time of my life, the time I would forever look back on and marvel at my freedom/creativity/agility (and I’m not even that agile).
But it was long, and it was tedious. Parts of it quite frankly sucked.
You see, leading up to my sojourn, my family and I had experienced some hard-core, life-altering, perception-modifying occurrences. We were feeling jaded with our lives we seemed to be forced to live in South Africa. We were angry with our government, the state of our roads, the amount of non South Africans living here (the list really did go on and on). So it was with anticipation that I journeyed to London to search out the perfect lifestyle that would parallel mine, only it would be better because it would be in the bustling city of London.
And off I went. And so set in my misery.
Firstly, with that romantic notion of hustle and bustle came a heck of a lot of noise. Not once (not even when I visited an old Anglican church) did I find some sort of peace. If it was not a human voice (in any language you could think of), then it was massive machinery revamping some other man made thing. Trains had speaker systems that blurted instructions I never could comprehend. Noise from headphones from passer’s by offended my ears. A panorama of reverb from road, rail, water and AIR traffic continuously ensconced me. Kids screamed at birds/squirrels/ each other. It was exhausting.
Another disturbing discovery was that I continually had the feeling that the ground was about to fall from beneath me. It was macarb because my childhood was on the East Rand which was built on rickety mining tunnels and mine blasts went off every four hours. Sometimes the windows shuddered so hard you thought they couldn’t possibly bounce back. And yet, there I was, questioning the stability of the English ground. It was as if I had a seventh sense for the tubes that ran under the city. It was as if I could feel the shakes and shudders of trains even when I was six floors up. Edginess indeed.
Theatre in London was also NOT ALL THAT. From the ticketing to the venue to the performance – triple disappointment my friends. I had to stand in a long queue in order to talk to someone who would phone another vendor, wait in a telephonic queue, and then negotiate my ticket where I had to agree to a seat that I was not really sure of.
Then, onto the theatre where the King’ mezzanine must have been for a play-play king because surely no one would want to sit at such an awkward angle, barely on the fabric of their chair, in order to view a tired performance.
The food seemed bland in comparison to even my mom’s overcooked meals. My taste buds barely came into fruition during my period there, I think they died of boredom. Only at the airport on my way home did I realise that our delicious Cadbury’s tasted a hellava more coco-nutty there, than in SA. Sad state of affairs when a country demands change to a grand recipe.
What you must understand, I was not hanging out in dodgy London, and yet, the only friendly people I met were three Irish men at Heathrow (also on my way home). The trio were a hoot because they purchased their pints at the bar and then brought them to the coffee shop to be merry with the ‘serious’ coffee drinkers. Boy, did they cause a stir, it was lovely.
Other than my friend (originally from SA) and her immediate friends, too many people wore an air of anger and impatience. I realised that Londoners were feeling depro at the state of the economy and due to the Olympics coming to an end. I heard mutterings that the only way to cheer London up would be for Wills and Kate to conceive, but I mean really. On the escalators, I saw ladies push other ladies out of the way. I think I even saw a lady push a man out of her way. I heard a bus driver sarcastically chirp a tourist for wasting his time. Surely, anyone in the tourism industry would value a foreigner’s investment into their country and their public transport system, who indirectly paid their wages? I cringed when an entire carriage of people sighed and moaned because the conductor announced that the train was running four minutes late. It was obvious that people’s journeys were interrupted but I was unsure as to why people had such a negative response to something that was what it was – the train was stuck and there was no genie that could pop up and fix it. It required a bit of time, and time, was clearly not what anyone had to spare for the laborers who ensured the system worked 99% of the time. Talk of ungrateful!
I, on the other hand, started to feel extremely grateful for:
- The vast and calming spaces we have here in SA. Even the ever-growing Midrand allows one some sort of space to stretch the intercostal muscles in a big breath.
- The comfortable theatres with magnificent sight-lines. Where seats with ‘limited view’ do not exist. Where the stages provide an ample canvas from which our incredibly talented South African actors can flourish.
- For Pieter Toerien and his endless time and effort that he pours into our culture, and how his efforts are already part of the fibre of SA.
- The happiness with which South Africans greet each other everyday, where such a simple greeting can acknowledge another’s existence – “I see you and you are worthy.”
If we look from a loving perspective, speak with respect, and react peacefully, it isn’t so bad and it is a nice place.
I love SA! It has the capability to bring me great ha’pea-ness.