While the existential distress that I felt when I first landed here in August of this year has subsided to some extent, it has been replaced by a deeper understanding of what troubles me about all large cities. London (like many other big cities) offers many amazing opportunities to those live and visit here, but as a city, it suffers the same “fatal flaw” that all cities suffer. There are just too many people here.
There can be little joy when one is struggling to find one’s way through a dizzying maze of narrow streets that are barely able to accommodate the flow of overpriced and unnecessary vehicles that plague London. (It should be mentioned that the public transportation here is excellent.) The buildings have no space between them, and the sameness of each street can feel oppressive. The current version of London is a retailer’s wet dream, and a consumer’s nightmare. Global and local retail chains are everywhere, and the ubiquitous “off licence” shops (basically liquor stores) give every neighborhood in the city a de facto tacky feel.
The saving grace of London is its many city parks, but those parks are often so overcrowded as to have an amusement park “prepackaged” feel to them. The greenery they offer to an otherwise brick and soot city is a relief, but the fact that there are so few opportunities for solitude or quiet can be a challenge. The historical development of the city has made it a hub for social interaction, in spite of the Londoner “reserve” that is so widely discussed as a Defining Fact about London. Londoners made not be all that chatty on the streets, but they do socialize frequently, and once they have a few beers in tow, the floodgates of loud conversation open up. However, I do not drink alcohol or consume any intoxicants and loud conversation is not my “Mojo.”
To be fair, I am not a social creature. I can manage to be gregarious when I need to be, but it’s more…