It's the city of my birth, and even though I live in the countryside now, I've never lived more than thirty miles from its centre. Whenever I stand on Waterloo bridge and see the sun glinting on the river, I get a rush of pride that this is my town; that I can call myself a Londoner.
Yet there will always be times when I feel like a tourist. Afternoons where I wander around bewildered; craning up at tall buildings, rushing past my reflection in shop-front windows. I still traipse down crowd-filled streets because I've never learned the quiet short-cuts, still shop in over-priced chain stores because I've never found the secret alternatives.
Philip has often teased me for my inability to find my way around. When he first arrived here, he took the time and trouble to learn the streets, to look for the places he wanted to eat or shop or simply spend time. He walked and walked, until the roads had formed their own pattern in his brain, until he'd formed an affinity with his adopted city. Growing up in London, I just took it all for granted. Or hopped on the tube.
Nowadays, part of the challenge in finding my way around is that my understanding of the geography is totally based on London Underground maps. My only way of working out the route between two locations is by interpreting the coloured spaghetti of the tube.
But at the same time, I have my own, ever-so-slightly bonkers, theory of tube travel in London. It's based on the miles I've walked, swapping between one line and another, along corridors, through tunnels, up and down escalators, threading my way between rushed commuters, striding past unappreciated and unappreciative buskers. I sometimes believe that it's all a big conspiracy.
Just imagine that, by the time you reach your train, you've actually already walked the distance to your destination. Could it be, that the trains shake and move in the dark, but don't actually go anywhere? That the tube companies entice you in, with their promise of speedy travel, only to use you as a captive audience for the adverts pasted just above eye-level. Have you ever wondered why those adverts are so carefully positioned exactly where you end up looking, as you try desperately to avoid eye contact with the people sitting opposite. As you sit there, in over-crowded, over-hot, carriages, desperately waiting to be set free at your destination, have you ever questioned why it takes so long to travel just a mile?
Or could it just be, that my antipathy to tube travel has more to do with the fact that most of the subterranean railways criss-cross their way beneath north London, leaving those of us who hail from the south-east, forever grateful to red buses and black taxis, fundamentally mistrusting the notion of underground travel in any form at all?