So, it’s official, I think I can truly call myself a Londoner, I have been a girl about town in London for 15 years now!
I know, it’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, I got off the plane from Kansas City via Newark with two big trunks full of tweed and wool and jaunty little hats and sensible shoes (because I thought that’s how Londoners dressed… well that’s how you guys dress on the shows I’d seen on PBS like Poirot and films like Cold Comfort Farm).
I soon realised that y’all are a much more stylish bunch, intimidatingly stylish. I went through phases to try and blend in, wearing all black, the C&A equivalent of what waspy girls were buying at French Connection in 1998, I tried to dress ultra modern in 2000 – ya know, millennium style , lots of white and silver, anime Japanese tops and crisp trendy sportswear, my favourite store was SuperLovers on Neal Street… I recall having a silver bum bag (which of course I referred to as a fanny pack).
Then I thought, f*ck it, who am I kidding? I like vintage dresses, the kind I used to pilfer from the back of my grandmother’s closet, why am I trying to blend in? The thing is, you can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take the Kansas out of the girl. And it was then that I really felt I found my niche, my London niche, and I’ve stuck with it for 15 years…
My first weekend in London I went to Notting Hill Carnival. I vowed never to go back! But this year, just days before my 15 year anniversary here in London, my boyfriend’s mother was really determined to go, she’d never been… and I felt sort of morally obliged to help her though the experience. Like a local guide who enables tourists to climb the Himalayas so shall I guide my boyfriend’s mom through the Notting Hill Carnival.
Now, one thing I can say is Notting Hill Carnival is the same now as it was 15 years ago and something tells me it wasn’t so different from the first Carnival in 1966.
But I tell you what, this time it was different, this time instead of feeling overwhelmed by the sea of people, the chicken bones in the street, the warm Red Stripe, piss and vomit creeping steadily down the streets and sidewalks; I felt strong, I knew where I was going, I knew what side streets to take to avoid the worst crowds, I knew which tube station to hop to, to avoid the worst of the rush, and I knew I wasn’t going to let Notting Hill Carnival win. I felt a bit like I’d conquered London, I’m winning!
You’re a tough city London, but I love ya (most of the time)