Monday, 11 February 2013

London Calling

I miss London. Since I moved to Leeds in 2006, a couple of long distance relationships and family and friends nearby meant that I'd never been far from its grasps, usually visiting at least once a month. But times they have changed and since Ash moved to Leeds two summers ago, visits to the capital (for anything apart from work) are a lot rarer than they used to be.

My teenage years were pretty much defined by being in London - from escaping to Camden when I decided to dye my hair black when I was 14 to the anti-war marches later on, and then the hundreds of gigs, pubs and clubs when I was 18 or so and all I wanted to do was kiss Carl Barat from The Libertines. The world was my oyster and London was at its core.

So it was with a lot of excitement that I made my merry way down to the city that will always feel a bit like home on Friday to celebrate my Mama's birthday and to catch up with some of my favourite people. Armed with a bag of Percy Pigs, a train ticket and a good book, I met my parents at Kings Cross Station two and a bit hours after I'd set off from Leeds.

My Dad and I whisked my Mum off to Hampstead for a bite to eat, a wander down the lovely high street and a trip to the Everyman cinema to see Hitchcock. For those of you who have never experienced an Everyman cinema, I can't recommend them highly enough. With just nine cinemas spread across the country (most of which are in London, although there's one coming to Leeds soon - hurrah!), they really are a joy to behold.  Decked out with plush sofas and with full waiter service to your seat for a pretty reasonable price, their screens are the antithesis of all the horrible multiplexes that only care about making money and not about the films they show or the experience that they give their customers.

Ma and Pa at the Everyman

With a bowl of frozen yoghurt, a comfy armchair and a big screen, it would have been a pleasurable experience watching Hitchcock no matter what the film was actually like. As it was, I thought the film was very watchable. Having never seen Psycho (around which the film is set) or knowing much at all about old Alfred H, I couldn't help that think that some of its meaning was lost on me, but Helen Mirren was fantastic and although I felt that Anthony Hopkins' performance was slightly forced, it was still enjoyable. My Ma and Pa seemed to enjoy it too, which was all that really mattered at the end.

On Saturday morning I caught up with Mel - one of my best friends from Sixth Form (and one of the zaniest, craziest, most warm-hearted people I know) - over two of the biggest English breakfasts that you ever did see at the Love Walk Cafe in Camberwell. Mel is the sort of person who just loves life and has an amazingly refreshing, creative outlook - she ran a marathon with little to no training, applied to Uni on the day of our A Level results, ran a race dressed as a gorilla and cycled down the Nile because she was bored. All of this means that there's little in life that would surprise me about Mel. So when she changed into a space suit in the middle of the Cafe and then asked us to film her drinking tea to accompany a Beyonce song for a top secret project that I can't divulge to you as yet, I wasn't in the least bit surprised. I promise to reveal all when I can.

The afternoon saw a trip to the South London Gallery with another wonderful friend, Kim. My friendship with Kim is one of the best things that came out of my time at Uni and, having lived with each other for four years, we went through a lot of the trials and tribulations that university life can bring together. She was (and still is) a constant support when times get a bit tough, and one of the funnest people I know. We can go for months without speaking, and yet when we're together everything just seems to click back into place. I was so so so pleased to see her.

After the gallery, Kim and I popped to Brixton to drink wine and eat the most delicious sourdough pizzas - that were bigger than our heads - at Franco Manca.

Then we made our way to Bush Hall to drink lots of vodka and see The Coral's drummer, Ian Skelly, do his thing as a solo artist (accompanied by most of The Coral). We danced. We drank. It felt like we were at Uni again. It was so much fun.

After a lazy Sunday morning on Kim's sofa, I headed to the Southbank Centre to see Winston. Winst and I became friends fifteen years ago when we were made to sit next to each other in every class at secondary school. He has always judged people by the shoes they wear, has a penchant for expensive macaroons and never fails to make me giggle like a fourteen year old. He's brilliant, and he likes art, so I dragged him to see the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery.

Despite the pricey £11 entry ticket, the show was fantastic - one of the best exhibitions I've seen in years. It was a colourful playground of light and art that challenged visual perception and left me wanting more more more. If you're in the big smoke, you have to go. You really, really won't regret it.

And with that, I hopped on a National Express (ugh) back to Leeds.

It was a weekend that made me feel alive, that made me fall back in love with London, and that made me feel genuinely lucky to be surrounded by the most wonderful friends. What more could a girl want?

London - I miss you. I'll be back soon. x

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