‘You’re so lucky!’ people say when I tell them where I live. ‘You’ve got everything right on your doorstep!’ Granted, living down the road from the Southbank and all the surrounding attractions – Borough Market, the Tate Modern and so on – makes me very lucky indeed. And the jammy deal my other half and I have on our one-bedroom flat in London Bridge means we’ve stayed put for six years, longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, apart from under my mum’s roof. So do I make the most of my enviably central location? Do I ’eck.
The amount there is to do in the capital, whether you’re of limited funds (as we are) or not, is overwhelming. And for me, a homebody at heart, living here has led to a constant tug of war between the nagging feeling I should be doing something culturally stimulating and my innate compulsion to potter around at home. I’m constantly anxious that I’m missing out by not hitting the streets, well-thumbed copy of Time Out in hand, to check out the latest exhibition/play/stand-up show/pop-up restaurant or boutique… The list goes on.
I have a friend who’s great at this. Once we met for lunch on a Sunday and she’d just come from the Gauguin exhibition at the Tate, whereas I’d considered ‘lunch’ ample activity on the Sabbath. It simply wouldn’t occur to me to squeeze two outings into one day! And she’s always joining some evening class or other, although they’re not always successful ventures, she’ll admit. One short course at St Martin’s called Fashion London turned out to be full of 19-year-olds who were awe-struck during a field trip to the V&A as my friend planned her escape route. Still, I admire her for broadening her horizons and feel guilty that I don’t strive to do the same.
But the pull of my home comforts is too strong. My typical weekend starts with multiples cups of tea in bed while watching Saturday Kitchen, then there are the papers to read and the housework to do, and I can lose myself for hours reorganising my wardrobe or under-bed drawers. The rest of the weekend dissolves faster than you can say ‘Sunday afternoon Come Dine With Me marathon’. Suddenly it’s Monday morning again and I’m wondering ‘What happened there?’
I can imagine any mothers of young children reading this are thinking, ‘What’s she moaning about? It sounds blissful to me!’ and that’s partly the point. I’m all too aware that at nearly 32 this pre-baby window of opportunity won’t be open forever. So shouldn’t I be cramming in everything this great city has to offer before even popping to Sainsbury’s becomes a three-hour ordeal? On the other hand, in five years’ time will I be glad I stayed in bed while I could before 7am was considered a lie-in?
It’s hard to disagree with the theory that too much choice has left modern society bewildered and depressed. And it rings particularly true here in the heart of LDN.
By Anna Sargent
[picture credit: yuki*]