In London Dreaming of America, In America Dreaming of London….

In London the skyscrapers are alien;loud, lonely, and raised. Yet somehow the setting sun makes the blues and greys okay. When you’re with someone you love, you could almost drive home – back to your quiet yet crazy days. With someone you love, for a moment, you think that you could stay.

As I walk along the cobbled pavements of Hampstead in north-London, down the narrow streets that I love so much, I think of how far away I am, figuratively, from the bright lights and tall buildings of central-London. How removed I am from the “city that never sleeps” vibe of Leicester Square. And I think of how different my current, quaint surroundings are to that of the areas that most attract tourists.

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Most importantly, I think of creating a new brochure for tourists that would include the lesser-known, albeit equally as impressive sights and scenes of the place I call home. I walk down one of Hampstead’s winding streets, as old as who-knows, and stop by an outdoor stall whose keeper looks like he’s seen the best and worst of life. I look through the wares and decide on two small books – one for addresses and one for birthdays (with the thought that I’ll no longer depend on electronics to keep logs).

To my surprise, it’s £1 for both and as I thank the keeper, he gives me a smile as if he knows about my plans to ‘live simply and quietly’. I carry on along the path and end up in a little café, nibbling on something exorbitantly-priced yet somehow worth it because of the ambience and good company. The lady to my right is sporting a black beret and looks like she’s about to stand up and dance a ballet for everyone in the room. There’s no wi-fi and when I ask why, the lady at the front says it’s because the owner wants people to talk to each other; My kinda place! This is the London I love and miss so dearly.

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I moved to the US four years ago to go to school and explore a foreign land. Anyone who has left home knows of the nostalgic longing for the place in which one grew up. When I think of London, my mind immediately goes to places like Hampstead that are magnificent in their quietude, and beautiful in their simplicity.

A short walk away from Hampstead (well, for the one who thinks everywhere is within walking distance) is Chalk Farm – a place replete with the homely grace of Hampstead. A place that somehow also contains the fast-paced charm of a capital city and makes you want to keep up with life; to keep pace with everything and everyone. So it’s no surprise when on my way home, after playing Shirley Bassey’s “There’s No Place Like London” I think, Yes, there is no place like this.

Guest Contributor Torera Fagbenle A lover of staying alive”. In London, dreaming of America. In America, dreaming of London.” Torera also blogs here

 London Nostalgia is a space for invited contributors to share their stories about the places, people and things they miss about London. We are invited to experience London through echoes of memories and nostalgia.

About Yewande Okuleye

Cultural Historian|Londoner
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One Comment

  1. Yewande you are waxing lyrical for a lost time. I do support your efforts to live simply and to disconnect from those electronic devices which threaten to separate us… I hail your efforts, sister.

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