I am wide awake with jetlag at 2am having just returned from London on Saturday and I was lying thinking about London and the impact it always has on me. I last lived there nearly 5 years ago and was happy to leave for something new - London is one of those cities rich with potential but also a sense, if you live there, of missed opportunities and sometimes, of life taking place elsewhere, beyond reach.
There seemed to be a real buzz there this time around - of money, of style, of creativity; so used have I become to the relative uniformity of how people dress and, crucially, the average body shape in Hong Kong (conservatively; and slim) that for the first few days I people-watched quite hungrily, feeling as though I were looking in to a cakeshop window (although I must say, without wanting to be cruel, that plenty of people in London look as though they have gone rather further than just look in the window). The temperature was warm, the sun shone, and I went to a work dinner in Exmouth Market where everyone was sitting outside with glasses of rose at 10pm, and I went to lunch at Rhodes 24 in the old Natwest Tower, with vertiginous views of the City and the Gherkin in astonishing perspective, and Stephen Fry sat chatting nearby, and everywhere I walked there seemed to be people outside bars, and vulgar light blue Lamborghinis racing down side streets, and a wildly diverse mix of people, and hair colour, and what can only be described as Widow Twankey shoes in the shops (I'll try to find an example, stand by!).
I also had a flying visit to Edinburgh for my twin nephews (AKA the Peas)' fifth birthday. I brought them Spiderman figurines and robot hands ("with ratchet sound") from Hong Kong, and arrived to surprise everyone at their birthday party at my mum's house (always a gratifyingly jaw-dropping experience when I turn up unannounced). Edinburgh was several degrees cooler and, perhaps accordingly, seemed much more staid than London where something is definitely happening.
On the plane, out of sheer boredom, I read a copy of Tatler - a ludicrous publication written, and presumably read by, people called Binky Tippington-Smythe - which a concerned reader once advised me to subscribe to since VOGUE had irked me so much. One article was complaining about how the super-rich (the Mittals et al) had spoiled London for the upper middle class who can no longer afford to buy houses in Kensington and Chelsea. These vulgar arrivistes have apparently spoiled it all for the old Etonians who used to be the cream of the crop and can't even get in to the social milieu anymore. Welcome to the real world, where someone is always wealthier than you and the social rules are being rewritten by the obscenely rich for their own benefit (who else's?). That's the nasty side of London.