I once thought the best thing about living in a small town… was leaving it. It had come to a point when the constant beating of the humdrum rhythm of a repetitive life, threatened to deafen my ears to the point that my own screams of escape, sounded like a whisper with no around able to hear it. Did you ever see the film Groundhog Day, the one where Bill Murray for some bizarre reason is forced to relive the same day, over and over again? That film felt like my biography… I looked back at the same old tired faces, the uninspiring places and remember how they played agonisingly on a continuous loop. I even knew that I could have closed my eyes and been able to navigate my way through each day, knowing that nothing new would occur and falter my step. As a painter and singer, I am sustained by gorging on being creative and getting drunk on being inspired, but in a small, unremarkable town, where very little happened I felt starved and thirsty.
So naturally with my starry eyes and my body brimming with ambition; my heart and mind was seduced by the blinding bright lights, endless cacophony of excitement and the tasty creative melting pot of London. So with the ink barely dried on my A levels, before the zipper even closed on my bags and before the first tear could even fall from my mother’s eyes, I was sat giddy with anticipation and a mind conjuring, on my way to the big city. The only time London was ever going to stand still was when it was going to be welcoming me! The capital was where I felt I truly belonged and small town living was just the entree, to a great big city meal. I was now a creative in London and that meant buying vinyls, going on a macrobiotic diet and dating more foreign women!
London was the place where I would spend the early mornings roaming the streets going to vintage markets, stylish boho coffee lounges and casual strolls in the park. While in the evening I would be bursting with explosive inspiration, begging to articulate itself with paint on a canvas and lyrics on a sheet. Then at night, I would take a break from writing top40 hits and painting Picasso’s and go out on the town with guitar playing, label redefining, sexuality exploring artists/activists. But as cool, trendy and creative as everyone else was In London, the city would truly fall in love with me because I was an enigma, a genius, somebody special…
I should have known it from the warning signs… The first was when I stepped off the train and was instantly swept up by the stream of people pouring from the other carriages and pooling on the already flooded city streets. London was a big place with lots and lots of people each with their own ambitions and dreams so big that money couldn’t buy and the word special was a buzz word on everybody’s lips. Then looking down there wasn’t a red carpet or a Hollywood star waiting to put my name on it, instead beneath my feet was cold, hard concrete littered with fag ends and chewing gum. But I readjusted my rose tinted glasses, ignored the glaring signs and still considered greatness and riches firmly on my horizon. Like Lilly Allen’s song LDN, “The sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why would I wanna be anywhere else”.
Despite crippling rent prices, a blank canvas weighing heavily on my shoulders and music execs slamming the door in my face. I was still able to strut down the street knowing I was still in the creative centre of the world and success was awaiting around the very next corner. Looking back now, I was rather impressed how long I was able to go on deluding myself especially in the face of; ever mounting bills and an ever dwindling bank balance, a group of friends only made up of Tesco work mates and with the only place hanging up my paintings was my fridge door. But the optimism wasn’t to last, I soon realised in and among the big, beautiful neon letters there was a small print, there is always a small print.
In the capital nothing matches the magnificence of billboards that outreaches the sky, steel and glass buildings with no give to the surface and a capitalist heart that never stops beating. London will ultimately always leave your dreams yielded and your warmth taken, just too cruelly remind you that the Big Smoke will always conquer us all.
So eventually finding myself with my bags packed, my mother on the other side of the phone and my head desperately trying to believe that maybe small towns aren’t so bad after all; what’s wrong with familiarity, having everything you need within a 30 minute walk and having your mind and talent appreciated by the people you care and love the most. Even in a small town, you can live a big beautiful life…But that’s the worst part about London, it’s like a drug, it’s hypnotising, it’s sexy, it’s intoxicating. Saying that I could go back home and be satisfied after; never being able to catch your breath after being immersed in the exotic, serenaded with the poetic and learning the rich tapestry of stranger’s stories, would be a lie. It was at that point, I put the phone down and left the small town behind for good and painted exactly what London meant to me. Success in the city is only a stones throws away when you let go of expectations, maps and worries and fall deeply in love with the soothing chaos of the Big Smoke.