Opinions, Comments, Insights and some Personal Ruminations

A Farewell to London

  • opinion
  • personal experience/views
  • life/work in london
  • travel abroad
  • the developed world





Well, this is it. Time to go back. To return home, to leave the Great City of London. I would probably feel better if all things had gone as I thought they would when coming here. I leave with a sensation of incompleteness, of not having achieved what I wanted, what I had planned. It makes the need to leave feel forced, a sensation of being thrown out rather than of simply going back --or having to go back.

I have three distinct pictures of this great city in my mind. The first one is of what I expected to find here, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to happen. The second is what I did find, what did happen, what I did do. The third, of what is left undone, unseen, of what might never happen. It is strange when a knot in my stomach tells me that I'll miss it --the city that is, and when I look around and can't really think of what I'll truly miss.

What I'll miss is probably --some attributes of-- the "developed world nature" of London, of the UK. Hard to pinpoint exactly what that means but I am certain there is a "feeling" I'll be nostalgic of. Probably being able to order everything by post and getting it in just a couple of days. Being able to stream just about any form of entertainment. Buy and download games in just a couple of hours. I guess that accessibility to "stuff" is worth missing, specially with items that don't reach all over, such as a "developing" country --like mine.

I'll also miss the pay checks and the chance to earn money in a one-to-one ratio, something that ensures that with a little --sometimes a lot of-- effort and some saving --almost-- anything is at everyone's grasp (within reason obviously, I still can't find the sense in having/buying a 10,000.00 £ watch or a 1,000.00 £ pair of shoes, or a 53" TV for a single-room "home"). The fact that there are plenty of ways to accelerate some processes thanks to credit cards, loans and mortgages also helps. The sad part being the incredible amount of regulations and controls around them because of the many --induhviduals*-- that don't truly know how to handle their own finances, or those that want to abuse the system.

As usual there is a downside to everything. Like having to pay incredibly high taxes for a lot of stuff, in the UK and Europe more so than the USA or Canada. Much of which ends up paying for the "welfare" of those unwilling to work since they make just as much from the government as they would through their own "effort". I understand the need to protect those 'less able' and those 'in need' but, human society being what it is, much of the expense goes toward supporting people that are just abusing the system (as has been proved over and over and demonstrated in many articles by different newspapers during my time in the UK).

There is also the need to pay crazily high prices for rent/letting and rather high for transport. Although I understand the later, the former is just mind boggling. Given the chance it would have been a better and smarter option to get a mortgage, buy a house/flat and pay just utilities, which ends up costing just about as much as only paying the rent for a single room. With the alternative to later recover some of the money when selling the house and transferring the mortgage rather than have a third to half of a decent-to-good salary just go poof**.

As much as a pay check every month is something to look forward to, there is something in the "life style" that is missing. In particular regarding the "life" portion. Every day, every time in the Tube, the buses, the shopping lines at the supermarket, the streets, people look different from my experience in my country --oy maybe I didn't care to look. Rushing without taking a breath or just ignoring their surroundings by plain tiredness or through artificial means such as incredibly loud earphones.

I have had some really loaded weeks/months and they are a blur in my memory. All I recall is a beginning and end to it with a routine of commuting, working and resting in between. I have to admit that sleeping so awfully tired that you just drop dead on the bed is... interesting... but reaching the point in which your body is simply unable to respond and you almost end up going back where you started because no one woke you in the bus, is... sad? extreme? unfair? a warning? a wake up call? (pun intended).

But what exactly does that mean? Work without stopping, see how week after week warp into unnoticeable weekends. How the memories of what I did become just memories of the same actions. Reminders of the same routine. Month after month turning themselves into nothing but the payslip. And then... watching it dilute itself into the expenses of just living here. No luxuries, nothing wild, just the day to day regular as-much-money-saving-as-possible needs.

There is a very modern take on/of/off? "life" when one decides to do some rumination of the context and surroundings. The essence of what humans have been doing since the beginning is there, obviously... inevitably... but there is a current twist that when I think too much about it makes me feel hollow, empty, incredibly... something.

I mean, day after day, week after week, month after month, the same routine, the same processes. In some jobs more than in others but at the end, the keyword is repetition (in great part due to the extreme atomization of roles in order to provide jobs for an ever larger population, at least this is the impression I got). In such a context I can understand many types of behaviour, good or bad, I can relate to the need to have the latest of whatever, the newest, the best, the unique, the most expensive this or that. At some very deep human level it makes it worth while, even if for just a little time, after that, it's back... to the routine.

If there is something that, sort-of, defines "the developed world", from what I have experienced, is precisely that chance to have everything at hands reach, be it at the high street stores or their digital counterparts. Being able to want something and get it soon enough. But what about the need to save money? Then the wants become "I wish", and some meaning is lost from all the action**.

Was I impressed with the city when I arrived? Oh, yes!. There is grandeur, awe and so much else when you can actually enter, see, touch buildings that have been standing longer than the America's have had that name. Find here and there plaques with the name of famous, important, relevant people in Humanity's history that where born in London or UK.

Such a big city, so much to see, so many places to go. But there is no time, no way to enjoy it, no manner in which to take in the sights, the smells, the shapes, the day, the night. Everything becomes a blur of Tube lights and stations, of red buses and foggy windows, of people going to work, going back home, stopping only if they need to cross the street.

I have done a few touristy things. Visited Stonehenge, went up on a balloon, had a trip around the smaller towns near London, a short visit to the coast, saw museums, saw films, saw incredible buildings, a few fantastic sights, got lost. Because of them I understood the need of many --people-- to obtain memories that cause an impact, that won't be easy forgotten, things they will be able to recall from within the routine. from beyond that moment.

My time in London has been interesting and very educational. It has presented me with a social, cultural, political and economical perspective of humanity as a whole. It reminds me of how Hari Seldon (Asimov's character who creates Psychohistory in his Foundation series) would probably have seen Trantor when he realized that he needed all cultures, all peoples in the same place to develop his theory. As a metropolis London is incredible but not sure if a place I would have liked to be born in.

Other than the memories of glimpses that go beyond the normal routine of "what I have to do" I can't say I take much away from my stay in the UK, from living in London (and for most I probably have to thank/blame my better half since I would have rather stayed writing, playing on the PC). Maybe I am not as materialistic as I thought, maybe because I see no sense in wearing thousands of pounds or owning the latest of everything as it comes out every three or six months.

I believe that what I regret the most, that sometimes consciously, and others unconsciously, hurts --bothers me?-- the most is leaving without having achieved the goal(s) I personally had. As everyone I had my expectations when coming here but I thought that I was coming with a well informed mind, with my feet on the ground knowing and understanding that this is not a land where dreams come true just because. I was in a sort of worst-case-scenario mind set but even that one ended up being overly optimistic.

My meeting with reality wasn't particularly rough or gradual, it was, I believe, more intellectual. It is/was interesting enough, when meeting other people, when finding other fellow country men and women, that I can/could actually consider myself lucky. Which makes the whole thing even sadder.

What probably makes the whole intellectual analysis moot, worthless, meaningless, and any and all my possible complains nil is that I understand many of the reasons behind so many walls. Many of the dynamics that make things be the way they are because otherwise the whole thing would simply not work. I just had an image that pictures it, although maybe in a tasteless way: it's how Atlas would probably feel when he needs to go to answer a call of nature and knows what would happen if he leaves, so, he has no other choice but... you know.

This is the version of my farewell that I considered worth sharing, I have another version in my mind that sounds too much like I am whining and/or bitching, which is not the image I want(ed) to give. Although I guess there is plenty of both anyhow. At the end there isn't much to say, probably being thankful of the good people I met, the opportunities I was given, and the chance of having been here. Thank you to the city and the country.

As a side note, here goes something not fully intellectual (feel free to skip it ;-):

Arrival, expectancy, the physicality of being here/The hit of reality, what is, not what I thought would be

The truth of things, the not expected/The realisation of inevitability, the encounter I knew of with the sight of what is

The incredible city, the strangeness, the familiarity/Its quality of dream, of illusion, of nightmare

The sight of the impossible, the incredible, the fantastic/The inevitability of the routine, the distance, that feeling of needing air

The eagerness of the waiting, the wishing, the wanting/The downfall when finding, getting, being there

The unending race, the ever distancing ending/The mind losing itself in repetition, not learning nor understanding, just doing, again and again, over and over

The time to return, unrealized wishes, unachieved goals, unfulfilled dreams/Returning home, a void left waiting, a void left incomplete

Leaving a new life/Continuing, restarting, retaking and old one

From comma to semicolon/Full stop

If I have the time and opportunity I'll write more on the subject from that intellectual point of view that allows me to understand and accept things as they are, as they were, even if afterwards, and deep within, I wish they were different, had been different. Thank you for reading.

*A term borrowed from Scott Adams's "Dilbert".

**Yes, yes. I know there is an incredible large number of things (laws, regulations, restrictions, physical limits, etcetera) behind the why or how of this or that. I understand that at an intellectual level, having to face them head-on on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is another thing altogether.

Teclado EZ-Reach 2030 por TypeMatrix.

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