DEAR LONDON, WITH LOVE
How an act of terror uncovered my true love for this city.
The first week of June marked two months since I moved my life to London. Time certainly flies when you're having fun!
But it also marked the week that this city was shaken by the London Bridge terror attacks.
An attack that was too close to home. Because it happened in the very city that I'm now calling my home.
And, in fact, the route that those three cowardly men chose to "target" was the exact same route that I had walked with Tom and a friend just a matter of hours before.
I always thought that my 'Intro to London' post - where I would ramble on about what life has been like and become - would be very different to this one. But the devastating events of Saturday night have been the very thing that helped me to put my finger on what I truly love about this city. That have helped to explain why London has always felt like a second home but, until now, I could never figure out exactly why. I now know it's got nothing to do with me having family here, and it's how I know that London, and love, will trump this unnecessary evil.
As a Kiwi gal touching down in London - a city of 8.7 million people (almost twice that of New Zealand squeezed into one city) - you quickly realise that you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Some of the buildings here are older than New Zealand. A weekend getaway to a local beach will see you basking by the sea in Spain or Monaco. When we jumped online to keep up with New Zealand affairs, we were greeted with a clip of New Zealand's Prime Minister dancing the hula in a grass skirt and Roman Sandals. Here, the Houses of Parliament are trying to debate how to leave the global superpower of Europe, while outside its gates the city still mourns an earlier terrorist attack that happened there. (Note: Clearly an exaggerated contrast, but you get my point).
A city this big and this powerful could easily feel cold and soulless. Walking down its streets you're met with grey stone buildings, brick houses, often grey skies and chilly temperatures. But therein lies London's magic - this grey, big city has the most undeniable warmth and charm.
We've only been here two months yet the local butcher and dry cleaner already know us by name.
The man at the takeaway shop threw in a free side of chips with my kebab last Friday, just because.
It's a city where, if anyone is ever in need of help - to carry a pram down the tube station stairs, to help an elderly person off the bus - there are a dozen people waiting to be of assistance before anyone even has to ask.
Where cars stop to let you cross the road when you're the one that couldn't be bothered walking to a pedestrian crossing.
Where you can feel comfortable wearing whatever the hell you like because people respect your individuality more than they do the fashion trends.
It's a city where, when I accidentally left my handbag and camera tucked under a chair at the pub, they were taken. Taken by a couple for safekeeping so they could safely return them back to me.
Where, at Borough Market, the very same day and site of the second London attack, a stall vendor insisted I took a more expensive bottle of Prosecco than I had paid for because he was worried my bottle wouldn't be cold enough to enjoy.
London is a city where all of these kind acts are totally unnecessary. Each person here is only one in almost 9 million and they will probably never pass the same people on the street ever again. But to Londoners, these acts of respect, courtesy and love, are absolutely necessary and the way of London life.
That's real #LondonLove for you.
I came to London to see another side of the world, but in my first two months here, I've also seen another side of humanity. I've been unlucky enough to experience the worst side of humanity last Saturday, but I've also been lucky enough to experience the best side of it thanks to this city. Life won't stop here in London because of last Saturday night. Instead, the city will stand together, it will keep calm and carry on, and it won't give those three cowardly men the satisfaction of living in fear. London will continue to show and spread the love that it always has because, at the end of the day, love is the only thing that can, and will, trump evil.
Sure, when I walk down the street now I can't help but feel butterflies when I hear a siren or am in a crowded place, but I also can't help but be reminded about how much I love this place.
Stay safe, London, and dare to keep on loving.