In October I moved to Oxford and my life changed forever. At first I tried to fight it. After all, I spent my whole first term of university arrogantly waxing lyrical about the greatest city on Earth to anyone who would listen, and in hindsight to a fair amount of people who weren’t listening as well.
Yet, when I came back to London for Christmas, the busy streets of the capital had lost their charm. I pretending it wasn’t happening, I threw myself into my old London habits. I bustled through Oxford Street with a fixed grin, dodging tourists, drank in ridiculously overpriced bars, and watched in horror as my Oyster Card shredded every penny of my savings. Then I came back to Oxford and bored people about how amazing London was once more
I was lying to myself. Once the Oxford Tube dropped me off in grotty Victoria coach station for this vac, I finally did some soul searching. Maybe it was the rain, or more likely my horror at how expensive everything was but I decided to think thoroughly about the capital city I’ve grown up in.
I did not understand what was going on. I was such an arrogant Londoner. I used to feel so smug watching tourists struggle to understand the Underground system. I would laugh patronisingly at my friends who didn’t know how to get from A to B. I could deal with thinking that fresh air was one of the perks of going on holiday to the seaside, and not a right, or health benefit. I could deal with fitting myself onto a crowded tube like a Tetris piece, trying not to fall into anyone’s laps whilst absorbing the sweat of the Central line. I genuinely couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else.
In fact, when I looked up Oxford on Google Earth before arriving, I was confused. Why was it so green? Where was the city? People told me it would be nice to live in such proximity to nice walks in University Parks, or Christ Church Meadows. People said it would be wonderful to experience a lack of pollution and nature. I thought they were being ridiculous. Didn’t they know you can take the tube to Hyde Park?
To an extent, I was right. London does have a certain quality about it to which other cities just cannot match up. In London people do not stop and stare, the world rushes by in such a ridiculously fast pace of life. It is exciting. You can taste the stress and smell the high blood pressure. In London you can walk down a street and completely lose yourself. You are one of many, an anonymous person in a midst of people from all different walks of life. London is always changing, it does not have a fixed community feel but instead the sense that anything can happen. Home of the economic, political and journalist centres- London has a lot to say for it.
But Oxford has made me soft. I now actively choose to take a long cut to my lectures across University Parks. I have even been known to go and feed the ducks. I like seeing people I recognise in town and smiling and saying hello. The hard and confident Londoner in me is gone, and I am finally learning to let go.
Now I walk through London without such a swagger in my step. I do not understand the cold glazed looks of strangers, and I realise how lonely a city it is compared to Oxford. When I am Prime Minister I suppose I will have to move to Downing Street and learn to love London again, but for now I am happy to say that I have fallen for the dreaming spires of Oxford.
But what is left for me for the next 5 weeks in London now that I feel this way? Well I have been spending a lot of time outside St Paul’s Cathedral because if you squint your eyes and imagine the feeling of cobbles underfoot, it looks a lot like the Rad Cam. I’ve taken to carrying around a bike bell with me, just to recreate some of the ambience and I have bought a grass scented candle. It seems pretty clear that Oxford has completely and utterly ruined London for me. If things get any worse I will be one step from cruising around Hornsey in full subfusc, and no-one wants to see that.