Friday 1 May 2015

London Wanderings #2 - Anonymity City

A series of thoughts about London. Working some stuff about the city out in my head and you may find some of it interesting

One of the things I love about London is the sense of anonymity. You can walk down a street with thousands of people and be totally anonymous. Nobody cares.

I grew up in a small village. It's a lovely place, and I do love going back. But the sense of everyone knowing everyone is something that I tend to find a bit claustrophobic. Gossip tends to leave me feeling icily cold and uncomfortable. It makes me feel rather hyper-aware.

London, on the other hand, doesn't give a shit about what you do or who you are. I was told by someone who was going to an event with a Victorian funeral theme how she had to travel at rush hour in a full Victorian black dress, and felt very self-conscious. But once she was there, nobody even looked up the entire time.

I've been out to conventions and parties where I've wandered through London, in the streets or on the underground, in full costume. And, again, nobody noticed or cared.

Everyone's seen it all before.

I was recently told by someone what Soho meant to them, and I loved it. They'd grown up as a young gay man in the middle of nowhere in a country which was not always the most enlightened with these things. So, when he came to Soho for the first time, seeing gay men hold hands and even *gasp* kissing was a major point for him. London felt like freedom.

And it does feel like freedom to an extent, and that's the side of it that I love. It's a very powerful notion to not be cared about.

There's also the other side to that anonymity, though, which is more frightening. Which is that people can fall through the gaps with nobody looking out for them. Having nobody watching you also means that you have nobody looking out for you.

I've written about this notion before inspired by the documentary Dreams of a Life. And the idea that nobody is looking out for you can mean you end up being forgotten.

Maybe that's one of the things I associate with the idea of London. The idea that, when you're coming in as an outsider, you're taking on the city entirely on your terms. You're on your own for better or worse and you make what you make of the area. But you're unlikely to leave a lasting impact on it. The most you can hope for is a blue plaque.

No comments:

Post a Comment