When I was going through various visa issues shortly after my first year down under, I was filled with a combination of fear and horror at the thought of having to move back to London; the decision, at the time, being entirely out of my hands. Having lived a stone’s throw from Bondi Beach for twelve months; having acclimatised to the balmy weather, the beach days, the boat trips; having formed a tight-knit circle of friends who I couldn’t imagine life without; having adapted to the ease of life, the thought of returning to London was an ill-favoured one.
For many expats living in Sydney, who’ve swapped looming clouds for year-round sunny skies, tube rides for coastal walks and the stiff upper lip we Brits are famous for, for a laid-back Aussie lifestyle, it can be hard to imagine ever going back; to returning to the mundanities of life in the UK, the unpredictable and often bad weather, the perpetual rat race, the crowds and the queueing. But many do, and their reasons are ample and varied; wanting to be nearer family, wanting to settle down, hoping to progress their career in an industry that may not be prevalent down under.
Yet despite the pros of returning, the persistent desire of wanting to be nearer family, it was something that for almost two years I never came close to considering. I would fill my weekends with trips to Palm Beach, going for endless beach walks, lazing in the afternoon sun, taking boat trips to Manly, watching the sun rise over Bondi Icebergs, in a constant state of wonder at the city’s endless beauty; always bursting with insufferable pride at the place I called home. My memories of London had faded, and with it I began to see the pitfalls but not the pros of the city.
And so, returning after over two years away from the UK, after two years of not living in the city I once called home, it has come as something of a surprise at just how much I’m loving being back. The kaleidoscope of cultures, the awe-inspiring architecture. The River Thames, the cobbled streets, the walkways paved with people-watchers, whatever the weather. The buzz of a cloudless morning with a frost in the air; of a sunny afternoon or a wine-fuelled evening, the theatres and the candle-lit restaurants; spilling with people every night of the week. The opulent doors lining the expensive streets, the parks and the whisper of Christmas in the air. It all feels new and safe and sparkling with festive cheer.
Yesterday, I was on the number 19 bus travelling to the King’s Road from Chancery Lane. Looking out of the window the wind was gusting hard, dancing dust around the pavement, and autumn leaves skittered animatedly across a nearby wall. Traces of autumn, the golden crunch underfoot, the pumpkins and the conkers, are making way for the onset of winter; the days are getting colder; the mornings darker. Streets are bedecked with fairy lights, and the excited anticipation for Christmas and carol services and minced pies and mulled wine is looming.
The throngs of people, the loathsome commutes, the overcast skies that last for weeks: some things never change. But for me, what has changed is thus: the sparkle of the city is shining brighter than ever before and London has never looked quite so appealing.
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19 comments on “On Falling in Love with London Again”
I travelled to London the first time with my sister and liked it, but didn’t love it. I had just met my boyfriend (who is English living in Aus) and it wasn’t til a few years later when we went back that I truly fell in love with England. And the 3rd and 4th times just cemented it. I love the magic of Christmas that permeates everything in the UK, I love the history, the quaintness of everything and the mix of cultures that can only come from being so close to Europe. Australia will always be home for me (I am eternally cold, so I think I’d miss the sun and beaches too much!) but I know what you mean, it’s easy to fall in love with England all over again.
Christmas in London is the absolute best! But yes, the weather is definitely a major pitfall – I’ve only been living in Australia for two years and find coming back to England near on impossible with the grey and wet weather! xx
Absence does make the heart grow fonder… But is the fondness enough to make you want to stay once more? I lived and worked in London for 20 years, loved the vibrancy of the place, but ultimately found it had become too ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ for me. The familiar had developed a bitter tang, my place of safety was no longer safe and I felt oppressed all around by the crowds, noise and exhaustion of simply getting from A to B. Having fallen in love with Australia, I flung myself at it with joy and a sense of homecoming, and have never, ever, for even a second, wished to leave. Subsequent visits to London have not tempted me; on the contrary, the contrast between home and London merely serves to reinforce my decision. If you are now feeling the allure of London and your old life, you must ask yourself some very careful and perhaps difficult questions before committing yourself to life Down Under…
Yep – lots of big questions at the moment. Have just found out my flat has been sold and the new tenants are moving in on Jan 8th which is another in a string of blows in trying to make Sydney my home. Had there not been the ample stress and strife of settling down in Sydney I very much doubt I’d be having any thoughts of leaving, but it hasn’t been kind to me in the amount of obstacles I’ve had to tackle xo
Big decisions in front of you. I have never been in that position but it’s nice that you still cherish sparkles of the city. 🙂
Yes, for sure! Thanks for stopping by Unta xo
I’ve had an experience so similar to this! I’m so glad you ended up getting excited about being back. You shared London in such a beautiful light. I’m heading there next weekend, and I’m excited to try to see it the way you described it!
Thanks Anya, I hope you have a wonderful time there! xo
London is so lovely in the silly season. I returned there after a year of living away last month and had so many moments where my heart ached to be back there, for good. I’m glad you’re enjoying being back in the city.
It really is – after two Christmases in Australia I plan on making the most of all things festive while I’m back! xo
Very timely post as I’m moving to London in a few weeks and not 100% enthused about it (only because my husband is there). I lived in London for 6 months as an exchange student and, having returned many times since, the novelty has kinda worn off for me. It is a very livable city, though! I could definitely think of far worse places to live, haha.
Will you be in London in time for Christmas? I find the festive spirit absolutely magical. Always hard moving somewhere for someone else (I’ve just been in LA for three months due to my boyfriend’s work) but I hope you love your time in London xo
Oh, I love them both! My initial idea was to stay in Australia some 7 years ago but then a guy came into picture while visiting my home country, Finland. Living in London again was on my mind every once in a while, until Brexit 🙁 Now I live happily in Thailand but I have a piece of me in both places. By the way, I love your writing. Beautiful!
Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by! I think lots of people have been put of London by Brexit, sadly. I have fond memories of Thailand so it must be a lovely place to live – though no where is without its difficulties xo
I used to visit London once a year for shopping, great city and full of surprises!
And definitely a great city for shopping! xo
Such a beautifully written post. I can imagine how it is living in places far different from your previous/future home. I guess it all comes down to being receptive of what is in front of us, seeing and appreciating the beauty of the present without the comparison of the past nor the future wherever we may be.
Such wise words, Kate! & thank you for your kind comments about the post xo