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Postcards from London: My English Heart

Airdate: December 13, 2012

           I moved to London for love.  I’m not exactly sure when the dream of living in England began.  But I do know the symptoms.  Adolescent pining after the lead singer of Duran Duran or the mysterious Remington Steele.  A handmade Union Jack flag proudly displayed on my bedroom wall.  Waking up at 4 a.m. to witness the full grandeur of a royal wedding at age ten—and then again at age 39.  A teenage fixation with Gothic romance novels, all of which featured a young heroine who softens the heart of an aloof nobleman—who just happens to have a huge estate out on the wild Cornish coast.  And while these were only indications of a growing obsession with the little island across the pond, I can’t really put a finger on the exact reason why I chose England.  With true love, you just know.

           Even the two years I lived abroad after college were spent in Hong Kong, which at that time was a British territory.  Of course.  Aside from U.K. Nationals populating the streets--and the governor's chair--Hong Kong bore many similarities to London—something which I only discovered after I moved here.  Double decker buses, underground trains, place names like Admiralty, Stanley, and Victoria—even some of the random smells from the markets, are the same here as in that Southeast Asian territory.  And every time I returned to London, there was something familiar about it, perhaps the feeling you get when you’ve come home.

           This town was made for me.  Or maybe I was made for London.  I’ve always felt comfortable on a bus, inching down congested streets, revealing scenes before me like a slowly changing postcard.  I love the river.  I rang in the New Year huddled with hundreds of revelers crowded on Blackfriars Bridge trying to get a good view of the fireworks from the Southbank, taking swigs from a shared bottle of champagne.  This is what crazy Londoners do.

           When I first walked through the Rose Garden in Regents Park, I imagined my grandmother walking those same paths years ago on one of her many visits to London.  I’m sure she loved those flowers.  As she stood in the souvenir shop buying me and my sister those little palace guard replicas—the kind that come in plastic tubes—could she have even had an inkling that one day her granddaughter would call this city home?

           Yet here I am and even if I lived the rest of my life here, and did something different each week, I would still not run out of new things to experience. 

           Now, don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I’m overly fond of the elevated cost of everything from real estate to chocolate bars, or the polluted streets overrun with tourists, the perpetual train line closures or windows without screens.  It’s just that the view from Parliament Hill or the sudden magnificent sight of Tower Bridge as the number 15 bus rolls around the corner, is all it takes to make any petty complaint I might have seem irrelevant.  In that moment, my only thought is, dang, I live here.  Granted, Mr. Darcy hasn’t yet asked me to be mistress of his fabulous estate at Pemberly.  But even on the grayest, wettest, windiest day, on the slowest bus, heading home to a drafty East Side apartment, I can’t pretend that I’m not still hopelessly in love.

            — Wendy Sherer

Photo: Gate and Roses at Regents Park in London (larger photo at right) credit: Wendy Sherer

    • Postcards from London: My English Heart