There’s this small patch of sky that exists between the horizon and the clouds that hang as low as smoke in a room on fire. Most mornings are dark and gray, even at eight in the morning. It’s strange, though, because the night sky is never black – it always glows with this eerie maroon haze of city light.
Every so often, this patch of sky between the city and the heavens clears for some moments – this morning was one of those few. Like no ordinary sunrise, the most iridescent pink shined aggressively through my second story window, letting in a light that could burn eyes. With no shades or variations, the sky was screaming with light, a fluorescent pink light.
Not long after, it was gone, and the grayness prevailed for the few hours before darkness arrived shortly after four. It’s funny how you learn to appreciate those moments of color and light.
Living in London is interesting. I realized this morning, as I was watching the weather that listed “Tuesday: grey; Wednesday: grey; Thursday: lighter,” this isn’t a joke – this is London. What I realized was that not only do I live in a city, but in the capital, and one of the greatest cities on earth. The creativity that emanates from the streets and the bustle of the various areas suitably called “circus” is contagious. As much as I want to injure the people strolling merrily along as I rush my way down Oxford Street on a lunch break, I can’t help but smile – and eventually, maybe I’ll learn how to slow my steps a bit. City life makes you walk faster.
Books in London are like television in America. People spend so much time travelling by train and bus that everyone is always reading something good – I’m on the last few chapters of Memoirs of a Geisha.
Things here are strange – commodities so familiar to Americans are rarities here – only the rich have clothes dryers and electric appliances. It’s unrealistic to go food shopping in bulk, since whatever you buy will have to be carried home on the tube or bus since no one drives. Thus, you wind up visiting the food store almost daily. The traffic report in the morning explains how the different trains and busses are running, rather than the cars. Saran Wrap is called “cling film,” ketchup: “tomato sauce,” and BAND-AIDs: “plasters.” The other day, the vending machine was out of order, and the sign read, “WELL OUT OF ORDER.”
It’s a bizarre place of downsizing and glamorizing. Cocaine is sold and used as openly as candy; much what I imagine L.A. to be like in the ’80s – it’s rare that you meet someone who isn’t carrying coke on them. They’re not bad people, which is nice. Because “they” are most people, and it’s not just coke – I’ve been told that London does something to people that is only escapable by drug use. At first I was a bit disturbed – maybe uncomfortable about it – but it’s a part of the life here, not one I choose to involve myself in, but it’s an interesting way of life.
Working in the city is equally as interesting, especially as a receptionist for one of the biggest TV production companies in London. I have had the pleasure of meeting some famous people who are nice and some un-famous people who think they’re important – some nasty, some interested that I’m an American; mostly, I’ve been complimented about my “good manners” and “great American work ethic.” I’ve become proud of that – I think it’s a difference between travelling in London and working in London. I get a different sort of respect here; apparently, Londoners aren’t raised or taught to be as respectful or helpful – “service-oriented,” as my boss calls it.
All in all, there is a lot to learn from the country that is considered most like the one I have spent the last 22 years in. Some things are similar, many things are different – and this is just the beginning.
That’s me. That’s London.
Jillian Sophia Warner is a member of the UCSB class of 2004.