Of course, there are still cars, trains, trucks, people, horses, sirens, alarms, and the bird with the terrifyingly loud continuous squawk, which seems to live outside our bedroom window, to keep one in a state of permanent teeth-clenching tension, but not having the planes constantly flying overhead is rather nice. Made rather more so because H1 and I have no imminent travel plans. Trust me, this would be quite a different situation if we did.
The importance of finding a quiet space has been uppermost in my mind as of late. Excuse my inner dreadlocked, swaying, 'feel your chakra*' hippy-dippy side coming out - don't judge me, we all have one - but it's so easy to get caught up in the consistent go go go mentality of the city that it becomes normality, until the day you realise that you haven't breathed properly for a few months. Sometimes you just need to find a quiet place and let yourself breathe (yes, I know, I know, but I do genuinely like washing and brushing my hair and I only do yoga for the health benefits, ok?)
The reason I first found myself contemplating this was because I accidentally stumbled upon such a place the other day. A short walk up a steep hill (I know! A hill! So exciting!) and I was in Wimbledon Village - a beautiful place, full of boutiques and a couple of boulangeries, which made me very happy. Although I avoided both the boutiques and the boulangeries (shopping and carbs - my two biggest downfalls. Oh, and cheese) I knew, from the second I crested the hill, leaving the dirt and noise of Wimbledon Station far behind me, and saw Le Pain Quotidien standing there, welcoming me, that this particular quiet place was one of mine, one where I felt comfortable and at peace.
It's important to feel comfortable. A quiet place won't fulfill its duty if you're uncomfortable and wriggling - hence why I can't handle yoga classes with any 'inner chakra' teacher (just let me stretch, please) and anywhere with itchy grass is a bit of a no-no. The comfort factor is one of the rules of the quiet place. Oh yes - there are rules - well, for me, anyway. The quiet place must be comfortable. However, the quiet place must not be Starbucks or my couch, both of which are highly comfortable (but actually, both of which are not quiet - I can clearly hear traffic and screaming children** from either). The quiet place should be so powerful that you can actually feel tension leave your shoulders. The quiet place does not need to be solitary - in fact, you won't find such a thing in London, and I wouldn't enjoy it if you could.
A few days after this, I lay on the grass in Holland Park (Holland Park has top-notch grass, by the way) with good friends and good food, and enjoyed the pleasure a quiet place brings, while actually being rather noisy (we were jubilant at the weather. Jubilation = noise). And then I realised - everywhere I've been, I've discovered my quiet place, the place that helps keep me sane. In Auckland, thanks to several years as a student, it was Albert Park (it worked, despite being the choice of thousands of other students also). When very young, it was the big tree out the front of our house, where I used to read books. At camp in the States, I suppose it was technically all of camp (eugh, isolation) but for me, it was getting away from everyone and running in the mountains, and here in London, there are a few, especially the river that I spend so much time by.
The funny thing is, there's every chance you're reading this muttering, "Go live in the country, you deep-breathing chakra-feeling freak." But the country wouldn't work. The city may make me tense, but it's nothing to the trapped feeling I encounter when in the horrendously quiet country (as per my comment about camp above). I like shops, I like good coffee, I like a buzz, and the country does not offer these things. The faint buzzing noise an electric fence gives off does not count.
No, I am a city dweller, and always will be, but one who needs her quiet space. Thankfully, I have yet to come across a city that doesn't offer it - you just need to look.
*Is a chakra something one can feel?
**I have stopped checking - generally they are not screaming because they're being stabbed by other children, they are screaming because they want cake. I sympathise.