London, A Love Letter
A short story based on Lucian Freud's Two Irishmen in W11 (1984)
Photo by Aniela Rybak
I love you. We’ve been through a lot together. You brought me both happiness and sadness. I have never known anyone as inspiring as you. Our relationship started with my first visit at the age of 9 when, as my Mom likes to point out, I claimed that you were the only city I could imagine myself living in. Where did my fascination come from? Was it because you are so different from Warsaw, my hometown? Was it the intensive pace of life? I’m not sure, the only thing I remember is the determination to come back.
Before making the decision to move, I visited you numerous times. Both as part of organized school and family trips, as well as alone. Before and after a heartbreak. Before choosing my university and during preparations for studying Art History. With an expectation of living completely alone or with somebody else. Learning English and speaking the language fluently. Thinking I have my whole life figured out, just to come back after a couple of months seeking a fresh start.
Sometimes you would leave me feeling more alone than ever, far away from home, family and best friends. I would envy my British friends who could just hop on a train and visit their families every week. After all, being a foreigner comes with a set of anticipated difficulties.
However, most times I feel almost praised for being different from everyone else, unique. ‘Diversity’ is probably the most frequently used word for describing your character. This variety gives me a feeling of belonging to a bigger community where everyone is focused on making an impact and creating something significant. Walking through the busy streets, visiting galleries and museums would leave me feeling more inspired in one day than a month spent back home. I don’t think I have ever visited an exhibition in London that wouldn’t have any influence on me.
The decision to move certainly was not easy nor independent. I can’t even recall the number of debates I had with my parents trying to convince them we can make it possible. You were my biggest dream. So, at the end of September last year on a very rainy day, my parents, three oversized suitcases, and I arrived at Heathrow Airport ready to begin a new chapter in life.
So far, I have lived in two completely different locations: the Strand and Brixton. Living on the Strand made me feel like living in the centre of the world. I will never forget the numerous evenings spent on Somerset House’s terrace looking at the sunset over Waterloo bridge (I will never find more perfect lyrics than ‘As long I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise.’) The walks on the Southbank or weekly visits to the National Gallery in order to spend time with my favourite artworks.
Photo by Aniela Rybak
However, the move to Brixton was probably the best that could happen to our relationship. During my first year of living here, I have learned that in order to remain sane in this incredibly fast environment, I need to find my own home. When talking about home I don’t only mean a physical space, but also the people around me. I could probably talk for hours about the warmth and love I receive every single day from my friends, but this might be a subject for another letter. So even though my biggest dream has always been living in a flat in Notting Hill, I have to admit Brixton will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a perfect blend between a residential and lively neighbourhood without being boring or too densely populated.
You have given me friendships (some of which I hope to keep for life), new relationships, extraordinary intellectual and artistic experiences, but most importantly my independence and enthusiasm to create. This drive is what keeps our relationship alive. That is why whenever anyone asks me how is it possible not to feel too alone/oppressed/exhausted/drained/robbed by how expensive you are, I just look at them and say: oh, the things you do for love.