Staying local in London

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February 15th 2013
Published: February 15th 2013
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At night, even in these dead months of the year, the city is never wholly dark. Its shadows twitch with a harsh orange light that glows and fades, fades and glows, as the pulse of electric power courses through its body like dreams. The sour air, breathed in and out by eight million lungs, stained by exhaust pipes and strained through ventilators, is never clean, although, after a time, you no longer notice its bitter taste and smell. The dust of ages swirls and falls, staining walls, darkening glass, coating surfaces, clogging lungs. Bricks, leaves, paper, food, bones and skin all decay, reduced to almost invisible specks that accumulate into the eternal dust of London. The only times the city can breather freely is when a wind blows in from a far-off place, bringing with it gulls and the cries of the sea, or a fresh sweet air from the west. But this city is a world of its own, a country within a country. People are used to taking the old and making it new, and used, too, to taking the new and making it old. Every glass of water from it's taps, it is said, has passed six times through the kidneys of another, and every scrap of its land has been trodden on, fought over, dug up and broken down for centuries. "Hearts and Minds" Amanda Craig

It has felt like a long, dark winter. Getting up to the glow from the street lights and returning from work in the dark. London isn't always the easiest place to enjoy during the damp, cold months. This winter may have seemed longer than usual for us as we normally take a holiday to get us through the darkness. It also hasn't helped that we have spent a lot of the winter waiting. We didn't make any plans as we didn't know when we would be able to move into our new place. This dragged on and on for months, with nothing we could do to speed things up. Because of the uncertainty of a moving date we hadn't had so much as a weekend away since my Mum visited for the Zagan trip in October.

Our usual winter agenda has had at least a week in the sun; with previous years having seen us in Jordan, Morocco or the Canary Islands. This has always been a much needed break from the gloomy London winter, giving us some much needed Vitamin D and holding us over for the remaining months before the flowers' bloom and we see the sun again. This year we thought we would be moving before Christmas and had envisaged spending winter sipping champagne amongst boxes in our own flat beneath our very own Christmas tree, but it didn't happen quite like that.

So instead of moping (okay, there was a little bit of moping) we have been doing some 'stay-cationing' as the Brits like to call it. Vacationing from our house, and acting as tourists without having to pack a toothbrush or a passport. It's been quite good fun, and thanks to some surprisingly nice autumnal weather we've managed to get out and about quite a bit (when we're not hanging out in Ikea of course).

We're coming up to 5 years in London, and there are still so many things we haven't seen and places we haven't visited that we decided it was time to try and rectify this. We've posted a list on our wall of the London experiences we still want to have and we've been crossing them off slowly. There are so many things to do in London that we'll never feel like we've seen everything, and never feel like we've experienced everything that the melting pot of London can possibly offer, but we can try!

We started this with my Mum. After our weekend in Zagan and her week in Oxford, we had thought we would go to Paris, but decided instead to go to Paris in the summer and spend the weekend in and around London. We showed Mum around Brixton, before going to the Portobello Road markets and having Yum Cha in China Town. The following day we drove to Arundel where we visited the castle and gardens before having lunch in the town.

After saying farewell to Mum, we continued our 'stay-cation' with the Imperial War Museum. It was quite soon after the Zagan trip so seemed pertinent and has been a long-standing item on Al's list. After that it was back to the British Museum, as although we have been before we hadn't really done it justice and it is amazing how many wonders of the world are beneath the glass roof; things I had read about in a class room across the world in a little town are there for all to see.

There have been a few other days out - far too many of them to hardware shops and for furniture, but we have managed to see a lot of London and also visit the Peak District for New Years where we sat by an open fire and went for walks on bleak, freezing ridges. But we're in the new flat now and have our flexibility back, although or bank balance looks a little sadder.

We have already got a few trips on the horizon. We'll be in Singapore visiting family in March, followed by an Easter long weekend in Lisbon and the improvement of those little trips on our mindsets have been phenomenal, bring on summer!

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