created by Trilby Rajna
Trilby Rajna explains how it took a journey across continents to better understand what it is to call a place home.
I would describe my relationship with London as slightly dysfunctional. Without a doubt she is one of the great loves of my life, but our affair has been a roller coaster of devastation and elation. One day you may be filled with fireworks and passion and the next you are standing on the edge of an abyss looking into the depths of despair. One thing is certain though, she is unforgettable.
I have lived in the madness that is London for two and a half years now. Originally from Cape Town, where the sun shines nine months of the year and where people walk slowly and without purpose, I arrived on these shores craving something fresh and exciting.
In a city stuffed with young hopefuls, from around the globe I am sure my experiences have neither been unique nor as pitiful as they felt at the time. It wasn’t quite the twenty-something picturesque ‘Friends’ scenario I had envisioned. Turns out rooms within house shares are tiny, expensive and run down and your cohabitants have the potential to be crazy heroin addicts who quite possibly kidnap prostitutes in their spare time. This was never proven.
And it’s all fun and games until you can’t really afford to heat your poorly insulated house in the dead of winter. It was during such times I would indulge myself, letting my mind wander across the Atlantic to the easy living of Cape Town. I’d think about the comfort I had while living in my parents’ home, the way the afternoon sun would warm me in Autumn, magnified through the bay windows in the kitchen. The freedom that came with hopping into my car to visit a friend, the beach, a coffee shop. The idyllic mountains and forest that framed the suburbs or the ritual of a Sunday braai (that’s a barbeque for you Brits) in any garden throughout the neighbourhood. That feeling of gentle satisfaction. That feeling of home.
Slowly, over the past two years my shattered dream of London has reformed and risen from the gum-strewn, malodourous gutters of the city. London has a plethora of marvellous and weird things to offer and somewhere among the eight million souls that wander the streets is a space perfectly carved to fit your quirks and oddities, waiting patiently for you to find it. Perhaps it will be within a group of foodies who visit every new market and east London pop up with fervour, even though the newest combination is something as bizarre as marmalade and caviar. Maybe you fit with the culture vultures who stalk the city’s art and museum scene in couture black dresses armed with deep brooding thoughts. Or perhaps you just find yourself slipping into a group of people who read the same books as you, make you laugh and buy you another pint of warm flat ale when you’re down.
Along my journey I have survived soulless jobs, lonely weekends and a diet of plastic cheese and beans – I now know I am officially badass. I have prevailed, been shaped and found family I’m not bound to by blood. I have become wiser, learned that one drink means eight, had conversations that keep me thinking for weeks and laughed harder than I have since I was a child. I have found a place I belong.
A few months ago I visited Cape Town for the first time since arriving in the UK. Its beauty is undeniable – however it left me with a nagging feeling of disappointment. I noticed the high fences, the barred windows and the poverty. I went to the same places I used to frequent with the same people and my friends spoke of buying houses, of marriage and Friday nights at home. Somehow everything seemed to start looking a little tired and drab. It was no longer doused in a haze of sunny nostalgia, but rather it came with a dose of reality, one that dulled the vibrant green of the grass. My memories and my love for Cape Town, the place that nurtured and grew me, will never dissipate. Perhaps London is my home now, or maybe I am forever doomed to live with one foot in both cities.
Trilby Rajna is a London based writer