I don’t need to tell you that London is a busy place, around 7 million people live here. Even in the more sparsely populated areas on the outskirts of London it’s constantly active, with someone always driving around outside the window at 3 in the morning. I came here to embark on an exciting internship, live away from my family for a while and gain some much-needed independence. However, with that has come an unnerving inkling – it is just me or is London a bit lonely?
London is ridiculously big, on a scale I’ve never experienced before. It’s easy to get off the train at Euston and shrug off the tube. “I’ll walk instead,” I think. “It can’t be that far.” The reality is that it will take me a good few hours, I’ll have to stop off to get plasters for my aching feet, and I will probably get lost. Throw in the Olympics, with Boris repeatedly telling me sternly to “get ahead of the games” and plan alternative routes, and it’s no wonder I’m struggling to stay afloat.
The sheer amount of people around is quite terrifying to me. It’s easy to get lost in the crowds, become invisible and slip away, whether it’s getting caught up among the bustle of commuters on the tube, along Oxford Street with Saturday shoppers, or at Euston station with the tourists. On most public transport, people don’t even talk to each other. Just stopping for five minutes to have a coffee and look out the window, you watch hundreds of people fly by.
Even when I’m having a drink with friends, or curled up in bed watching How I Met Your Mother, I find it impossible to relax here. Everyone’s constantly in a rush to get somewhere, which makes me feel like I should be too. Before I know it, I’m pacing down the left of the escalator, until I realise I’ve got nowhere to hurry to. Everything is quick – or aims to be – from getting served in Starbucks to crossing at traffic lights. The rolls of eyes and tuts when your Oyster card doesn’t work in the alloted time of half a second make me panic more than stalling a car at a roundabout.
The weather also might play a part in why London can feel a bit lonely at times. Right now, the sun is shining across the city, old men are stretching out in parks with so little clothing that your eyes are forced to face forwards, and those of us with uniquely pale complexions are made to slap on suncream for the ten minute stroll to the office. However, when the dark clouds and drizzle inevitably set back in within a matter of days, the grumpy faces and impatient business folk in suits will be out again in full force, made stronger in force by the Olympicsceptics, bringing the mood down again.
London at night is just as hectic, a completely different scene to during the day. Wandering through Leicester Square last Friday I saw more people around at midnight than during the day, many of them drunk, in fights, injured or loudly shouting. But it’s still easy to slip by unnoticed.
Maybe it’s me – I’m a country girl through and through. Are all cities like this? Perhaps I’m just not used to how people do things around here. I’m obviously not from London and thus I stand out a million miles away, often embarrassing myself in public places and staring at landmarks I’ve only seen in pictures. I don’t know the area, or the culture. I don’t have a community support group of friends and family to rely on, just lots of people spread out across the city, and as I’m sofa-hopping, I’m only ever in one place for a few days. I’m generally only able to communicate with other people Facebook or Twitter, where most people only flock to when they want to shout about how great their lives are, or on the phone, where I’ve racked up a £70 phone bill in the last month alone in a desperate attempt to talk to people.
To me, that’s the most lonely thing about London – most people are completely absorbed in themselves and their own lives, whether that’s a book on the train, or on the phone in a restaurant. The sense of unity in London, for me, is extremely limited on a day-to-day basis. Everyone knows that in a crisis such as 7/7 we can all pull together, but those instances are rare. If it wasn’t for the Metro’s ‘Good Deed Feed’ I’d be feeling quite sorry for myself on the tube in the mornings. I can only hope that when I move down here for myself and experience life in the City as a true Londoner that’s not living out of a suitcase, I can learn to fit in and adapt to life in the capital without feeling so isolated.