dispatches from london

three months into life in london, i’ve learned to stand to the far right of escalators, appreciate a midday pint, glare at tourists walking far too slowly on the pavements, and appear nonplussed at all times of day. i’m not quite sure if i’ve learned very much more than that — about austen, shakespeare, or british romanticism, all which i’m meant to know more about by now, all which i’m in a wee bit of a trouble for knowing so little about — and yet i couldn’t be happier about my current state of affairs.
except maybe the bit where i have to return to singapore in three weeks.
i am so inclined to call london my home, this place with all its quirks and eccentricities, which everyone, myself included, laments about: the weather (too changeable), the food (too bland), the rail (too unpredictable). alas, this place is not yet mine.
there was, after all, something much too magical about imagining the city to be yours. its galleries, where i could always find solace in the quiet beauty of art, its parks and theatres, in all their magnificence — these were all mine to revel in, so long as i remained here. it never fails to strike me how strange and marvellous it is, to be able to ‘pop by the courtauld to visit my favourite impressionists’; just imagine all the cultural capital that you could own because of something as arbitrary as your postcode.

is it a little selfish of me to wish to leave everything of my past behind, for this life, which has so nurtured and galvanised me? i’ve always had the habit of telling others that home — that is, singapore — felt too stifling, but i’ve never quite known what it is of myself that i’ve had to chip away in order to be my parents’ child, until i forgot their faces and their voices in my head.
perhaps this life is a slightly lonely one, for it is oft by yourself that you stumble home —  to camberwell, i mean — in the middle of the night, with slight regret at drinking too much, away from the club, away from the minor celebrity, and away from that one party where you danced with felix white at the bar. still, it is in this aloneness that i’ve found this city most wonderful. wandering about covent garden on a sunday night, with its streets cleared of activity, its air damp with rain, and lights glistening in the trees, your could only feel so tranquil, so protected, and so at ease in your corporeal self that for a single moment, you know you’re alive. and perhaps this is enough.

im not sure how i’ll take to being under my parents’ roof again, when i finally return for the new year (the housing situation with my university has not really been in my favour), though i suppose i’ll have my work — and books — to take refuge in till summer arrives. what i can now do is only to cross my fingers and hope that with the new year comes new opportunities, and if not, the sheer presence of my best friend, who will, as she has always done, make the sweltering weather just a tad more bearable.

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t-minus 24 hours

Tired and anxious and feeling like everything’s closing upon me. This is definitely not a good mood to be in the day before a thirteen-hour flight and a big move across the world. Not sure why such trepidation always sets in right before I’m meant to leave home. Perhaps it’s the feeling of having to leave my mom; her overbearing concern eating into every sliver of excitement I might’ve had before, her dread devouring me. Or perhaps it’s just the logistical messes I’m in: the borderline overweight suitcases, delayed parcels, and — dear lord — the seemingly unresolvable timetable clashes. Everything seems to point to the sheer pain of being independent, and of having to sort my own shit out as an adult. But I know I won’t be alone in London, and I know everything will resolve itself eventually. Maybe, above all the adventure and all the thrills, being at home is what I really want.

at the end of the day

I’ve just turned in my final copy at my job, and, whilst having yet to say my last goodbyes, have concluded two months at my internship — at last. Of course, I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities and the little luxuries that my job has afforded me, from the copious amounts of food and drink, to the travel — a lifestyle that almost borders on profligate. Yet, I think I’m ready to head back to class.

Two months divorced from my studies, I can almost feel my critical senses disintegrating at the back of my head. For despite the amount of writing I’ve done, there is only so much you can say about a plate of short ribs or a bowl of fries. Certainly, there are people who’d probably understand the palate in greater depth and detail, who appreciate food as I do literature. Alas, it seems I’m not such a person despite my love of good food. So it’s back to the classroom, and back to the books, as I attempt to finish up the last of my long-overdue summer reading in the next two weeks.

Tomorrow, I’ll be flying off to Hong Kong for a holiday with my family. And then there’ll be a week of emotional farewells. And then, London.

Dear lord, I simply can’t wait.

all the glamour and the horror and the fuckin’ melodrama

These days, I cannot seem to keep track of time. There are encounters that I’ve willed to happen but cannot bring myself to see to; other engagements that I’ve never intended for, that inadvertently occur for one contingent reason or another. Then there are the appointments that one must keep, regardless of how early or how late in the day they may be, or how lethargic you are. Those are most tedious.  Continue reading

“There are times now, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not that bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too—unexpected—when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.” 

— Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton