Do you have a favorite bench in your neighborhood? A secret spot that you seek every now and then to reflect or reset? A viewpoint overlooking your favorite town that you climb to whenever you visit? A location in a faraway city that brings you joy? We all have connections to these kinds of places: places of solitude, of refuge, of wonder.
So I read this challenge and I thought, “oh this will be easy, of course I have a favourite place”. I sat down, after work with a bowl of cereal on one hand and open laptop in front of me and started to think. Hyde Park – used to be my favourite place but I have not been there in years. Ray Lodge Park, used to go there as a family but aside from running through it with my then running group, have not set foot in the place for months. Spain? It’s hot, it’s sunny, it’s definitely beautiful but it’s not my favourite place. So where do I go to reflect and reset? Which place brings me joy? Do I have a connection with a place that provides solitude, refuge and wonder? It initially occurred to me that the answer was a sad and sorry no. It initially occurred to me that while in the past few years I have travelled quite a bit, I have always been looking for the next adventure, I have never really slowed down long enough for anything meaningful. I am always moving, buzzing, frantic.
But then I remembered that there was one place that I have kept coming back to time and time again. It just was not on my radar for a place of wonder, solitude, refuge and reflection however that is where I am in those rare moments. The place – Royal Festival Hall. Yes. Unexpected, not that glamorous and in the middle of the city but my go to place when I just want to escape. You can walk up and down the stairs and sit undiscovered and undisturbed in many places in that building. I would read, write or just stare at the river or people. The place brings back special memories, my graduation for my masters degree happened her. It was one of the last family occasions that we had when we were all complete and my father was alive. I have wonderful dates with friends and family on beautiful sunny days or escaping from the cold on winter evenings. Yes, this is my place. I also love doing the walk from Waterloo/Embankment all the way down to St Paul’s/Tate Modern one of my favourite walks. I am a London girl/woman through and through. Maybe that’s why I’ve found it so hard to leave this city.
The last time I found myself near the Royal Festival Hall was in August of last year. I had just been to an Anna Garcia talk on relationships and I was reflecting long and hard about all the relationships in my life – most of all the one I had with myself. It did not make for a moment of wonder and joy. So I did what I always do at difficult times and I took my camera out. I placed it on the ledge put it on timer mode and took this picture. I then put my headphones on and played ‘Give A Little Bit’ by Supertramp on repeat, singing out aloud and playing an imaginary set of bongos. Nobody was around, it was OK…
I should probably comeback more often – reclaim the London this my secret joy. I should probably take more time to appreciate the here and now, instead of worrying about the future, obsessing about the past and wasting time thinking about things I cannot control. Yes, I should probably do all that.