West of the Centre, South of the Thames Part 1

There are two locations that hold a special place in my heart, though for entirely different reasons. The first location is Bayswater, a small area in West London that is filled with grit and a slightly rundown grandeur. This was my first glimpse of London seven years ago, and it’s remained indelibly entangled with my love of the city. I stayed in a crap hostel; the pristine, white Georgian exterior belied the horrible, decrepit environment within. But away from the hostel I was awed by the area, the urban symphony of languages merging over the sound of traffic, music and general life. Each shop was an insight into a country that I desperately wanted to devour, each side street could possibly lead me into another world. While my classmates busied themselves with the age-old tradition of finding the nearest pub or American chain, I walked around in a daze, trying to commit to memory this rest stop for so many travellers. From that first visit, a few places still shine brightly in my mind: Marble Arch and Edgware Rd, where I watched a thief run by with victory in his footsteps; Tower Bridge, where I watched my beloved Thames rush by as if my dreams had finally caught up with me. But Bayswater is the most solid from those memories, its transient nature leading to a feeling of permanence, of certainty. I am comforted by the fact that it will consistently always change.

I find myself drawn to this place still, all these years later. Out of all the places I’ve loved, it’s one of the few that still make me draw that same excited breath of wonder, hoping that I will see something that will drastically change my life. I feel compelled to go back onto Queensway and retrace my previous steps, as though I am a ghost trying to make peace with my destiny. Compulsively I view the same buildings again, knowing that they have changed hands repeatedly and are no longer the spaces that I once knew. I become split in twine, my present and past selves trying to mediate inside a place that contains spaces once known, lost and never seen. It remains my place of possibility, filled with potential energy and actions that are never used up by past explorations. Unlike Southeast London, which I consider my home regardless of my location, I am drawn to Bayswater by the fact that it will never be my home. It is my place of transition and transformation, a space in which I was allowed to change and discover in order to become myself. Its lack of history to my former self acted as a catalyst for my urge to find somewhere in this vast, sprawling city that I could call home. And from the transitional West, I was led to the solid, complicated, political and always wonderful Southeast, in the small package of New Cross.

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