Thursday, 8 September 2016

London Diaries - Not a Bed of Roses

You know a city is home when you have a secret place to go to in the hour of contemplation or jubilation. I have not one, but three of those in London. So probably London is triple home to me or maybe it just has the ability to put up with three of me; which if true would automatically qualify it for the title of City Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Whichever way one may look at it, that London will always be home, is an undeniable truth.
With all the praises showered on London,  I am not blind to the darker sides of the city. In my initial week at RedHill I ventured out to London to spend an evening with a friend. Our drinks and dinner banter went out of hand leading to me missing the last connection from Victoria to RedHill. I had just started to fall in love and the city drawing out my affection had no flaws. So off I went to East Croydon to try my luck there and rocked up to an elderly station master asking if he could guide me on my way to RedHill. If I know what Shakespeare meant by "hell hath fury" it is because of that night. Appalled that a young woman, all by herself, was roaming around East Croydon past 10:00pm the grandfatherly gentleman lost all control and calm. I was given an earful such that even my father never has. His sternness and anger made me want to melt away in the dark. Young ladies like me made his job difficult as we were his responsibility and he had to ensure we got home safe from a dungeon like East Croydon. Eventually he got the Gatwick express to do two unscheduled stops and transport me home safe. Needless to say I never ventured near East Croydon again but have blessed that station master ever since.
A few years later, and probably a bit wiser I decided to meet some friends at Angel & Islington for a night of dancing. Friday nights and binge drinking are synonymous in London. So I took all care of being with friends or in places with people till I met my friends. But I had not anticipated that the tube station would become the stage for an eventful memory. As I was walking to the escalator, two intoxicated hipsters started following me. One soon stood ahead of me on the next step reeking of alcohol. The one behind tried to grab my sling and pull me down. I resisted and shouted. It is a long escalator and there was no one coming up my way. But a kind soul who was on his way down ran up and seeing help on its way the two intended muggers ran. My heart beat exceeded that of the tube speed that day and never todate have I recounted this experience to anyone. I love my freedom!!
Precaution is good and I advocate it. But sometimes I do throw caution to the wind because too much of it can just cramp my style, and I would like to believe that most people in the world are good until proven otherwise. On a dark, cold and damp winter evening I was making my way from Bond Street to the hotel of a client who had just landed from India and we needed to prepare for the investor meetings the following day. I could have easily taken a black cab but I love walking around in London and as I had time on hand, I decided to get some exercise. I don't know how it happened, probably it was because of the distractions Deff Leopard was sounding in my ears, but I lost my way. I looked around and saw a bouncer at the door of a club and decided to take his advice on the route. Google maps were probably not even being tested then. Having taken my directions and orienting myself correctly, I put Guns and Roses to give me company. And that's when I had an inkling that something was amiss. A couple of hundred steps further I was sure I was being followed. A keen viewer of crime, detective and action thrillers I stopped in my tracks and noticed that the energy that was disturbing me had stopped too. I turned my back to the wall pretending to untie my earphones cord and from the corner of my eye I saw that homeless person sitting outside the club was now just about 50 steps away to my left. My heart was in my mouth but then came the golden words of a cop to me, "when in trouble, hail a black cab". So I turned to the main road and wished hard for a black cab to show up. No sooner had I hit a wider street one emerged from the darkness. I flagged it and got in. The driver saw my face and knew what was probably the reason for my ashen look. That day I got another earful for using back lanes in the dark.
Whenever I have faced adversity or tricky situations, the city has sent forward helping hands. All the earfuls and anger that may have been spewed has only made me become a more careful individual and endeared this city to me. There is no other like London.
Walking towards my safe harbour today, I suddenly feel the warmth of the sun rays hit me. How the sun changes this city! It has come out from its hiding probably to reinstate that the city knows me, sometimes better than even I know myself. Even if it's too strong for my liking I am glad that the sun is out today, another indication of a new beginning, a new era and a brighter future ahead.

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