Should anyone ask, I served 2 mistresses

A friend’s message about going up to Berlin to see an opera reminded me of my first Opera in Berlin. I’ve been searching to try and remember which one it was. It took place around the start of July 2004 when I’d been studying

German for a grand total of 1 week. It could have been “Die Entführung aus dem Serail.” What I do remember was that I was blown away by the visual quality of the production. The performance was a wonderful introduction to my love affair with Berlin and Germany.

Alas, now I’ve given myself away as serving two mistresses: so please don’t tell London. I still have strong feelings for the city. Mostly good and the bad ones are reserved for the politicians who have spent so
little supporting the infrastructure that makes London a liveable metropolis. Like the Tube that is desperate need of an upgrade. But for now I will talk about the good. I’ve spent 10 years of my life in the heart of the city: Soho, Barbican, Madia Vale and in a loft on Clink Street overlooking the Thames.

As a child coming from a small conservative suburb in South Africa, my love affair with London was instant – I remember writing a letter (probably my last postal letter ever written) to the Mayor of the City saying how much I liked it (I still have his response filed away somewhere). It was where I wanted to stay forever. Soon after I arrived, I set up my own business doing web-design and ran that for 2 years. I partied every weekend, lived the London music scene, and was of the firm belief that should I ever venture outside zone 6 of the Underground I should have a passport with me. I was not British. I was a Londoner.

At the time I was really interested in architecture and London, with it’s combination of old and “new British architecture” sated my cravings for design. Most of all though, it was the people that I knew then that made the place so much fun. But people change and my priorities changed. When I go back it’s to another city. Not the one that I fell in love with. That’s not to say that I don’t have feelings for London and won’t move back there at some point. It’s a perfect place for business. Which other city is so international that within the first minute of conversation, “Where are you from?” inevitably comes up? How I miss meeting people with such a worldly perspective in my current location.

I moved away from London because I wanted to know that it really was the best city for me. I appreciated my time in San Francisco putting this theory to the test and when I moved back to London, I was convinced, it was the best. But San Francisco has sown the seeds of doubt over my London convictions. Sure London had a social scene that suited me better but the weather elsewhere could be better. And my 4 years in San Francisco had shown me that it was possible, indeed not too difficult, to live elsewhere. Adding a foreign language for extra credit, and I was putting this to the test after being back in London for only 2 years. I moved to Munich, via Berlin.

Like a broken up couple after a long romance, I still visit London regularly. We are still good friends. But a trip is not the same as the timelessness of an infinite number of weekends together that one gets from living in a place. I go back and have to hurry to catch up with old acquaintance and often will not tell others that I’m there should
they expect a 30 minute rushed chit chat that adds nothing to a friendship. It’s always nice traipsing around old haunts and seeing how they have changed. It’s nice seeing the new architecture and latest music and art. But I’ve changed and new “international” people have moved into London and old “international” friends have moved onward to
test out new cities for themselves.

So yes, I still love London, just in a different way.

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