Monday morning absolutely stinks. There are very few occasions when, if asked if I am happy to be a Londoner, I would reply in the negative, but catch me stumbling under blank grey skies on the way to an overcrowded public transport system, and guaranteed that will be the time when I will say ‘I hate this place’. This Monday was a real clanger of a bad one. The tube was monstrous, an endless blurred mass of people, all pushing and struggling like we were in some kind of a fight to get ahead, and I was mid-battle when I realised I had left my laptop and work papers at home. As I flew out of the tube station at work, I nearly got flattened crossing a heavily traffic-laden road while shouting into my mobile phone at my housemate, who was on the other end sleepily stabbing at the keyboard of aforementioned laptop, trying to email me the essential documents for the day. I arrived at my desk tired, drained, tense and angry, and still with five full working days ahead of me.
As I went through the daily motions of firing up my work PC and exchanging miserable mumblings about our weekends with the other office spods, I pulled my brain into ‘blog’ mode and started to think of what to do with my Monday night. My body was already telling me pretty frankly that it wanted me straight home from work, to veg out in front of the TV with a pizza, but that was unfortunately not an option. This was the new me. I would never find my London life stuck in front of the goggle box. What to do, what to do? I plumped for telling myself that I’d put my mind to it later, knowing with smug certainty that I wouldn’t be able to come up with something and would end up bottling out and trudging straight home after work.
Mid-morning I glanced half-heartedly at Time Out, but was basically resigned to failing in week one when in popped an email from my roomie. Paul is happily employed as the only straight man in his office, somewhere in the fabulous world of PR, and he was emailing about an event that very evening in Guanabara, a big South American venue in town. The event? Miss and Mr. Brazil UK, the semi-final. 15 men and 15 women, all from Brazil and all (at some point at least) in swimwear, would be taking to the stage to try and impress the judges and the crowds. Paul was doing the press and would be schmoozing with journalists, but I’d go on the guest list and my dinner and drinks would be paid for. What’s a boy to do? Free food and drink set against a backdrop of baby-oiled tanned flesh? If I was going to find my London life anywhere, it would be there.
I finish work an hour before Paul, and so I set off out into the twinkly London night with a real determination in my step. Monday night and I’d found something to do, and with an hour and a half to kill first, I was going shopping. Payday had been and gone, and if anything was going to banish those Monday morning London demons from my brain for good, it was a bout of Monday evening Oxford Street shopping. I needed trousers, shoes and a shirt, but when I finally met Paul an hour later I had added jeans, a sweater, 3 DVDs and a tie to the list. I had spent well over £200 and I felt fantastic. Who cared about the crowds? As Paul and I staggered off under the weight of my bags, I was starting to revel in the bustle of it all again.
What came next was nothing short of fabulous. We climbed stairs edged with pillars of multi-coloured balloons, before entering the venue, which was stuffed with more balloons, streamers, glitter and mirror balls. Perching ourselves at the edge of the stage and runway, we were soon roaring with laughter at the sheer campness of it all. Hoards of Brazilian boys and girls, stunningly beautiful themselves, screamed and hollered as the contestents swaggered around the stage, posing and shooting moody, sexy glances at the judges. The audience shrieked, waving home made placards as they swooned over their favourites, and in the interval we were all treated to a demonstration of ultra-impressive Brazilian martial arts. The whole crowd radiated unity and warmth. As I sipped on my tropical punch and idly took another olive, I gazed mistily at the beauty around me, and smiled at Paul. The whole experience was bliss. ‘We’ll stay for the first round’ turned into ‘Let’s just stay to see the formal round’ which morphed into ‘We really can’t miss the swimwear round’. One of those wonderful unintentional great nights out was happening.
As Paul and I headed off into the London night an hour or so later, I thought about London life, this elusive thing I was trying so hard to grasp. It was so enigmatic as to be frustrating, but it came down to the fact that the reasons we hate it are also the reasons we love it. Incredibly overcrowded and stuffed to the seams as is it, London has responded by laying on a plethora of fantastic entertainment for anyone, any night of the week. And in doing so, London offers a perfect counter to itself. Tired of the overcrowded tube? Well, why not revel in the overcrowded excitement of the shops then? Sick of packed shops? No problem, the clubs are crowded full of beautiful people. And then there’s the crowning attribute of beautifully multicultural London. If you get sick of it all, just ten minutes on a bus and you can be in Brazil. I was looking for my London life, and instead I’d found a little bit of Rio.