London ball

Susie Lau on the joy of spontaneity in London


st weekend my boyfriend and

I really wanted to go bowling. We sought shelter from the biting winds in the imaginary nostalgia of sleepy bowling alleys, with the lingering smell of shoe cleaner spray and Lynx Animal, imagining that Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” would arrive mid-game. . It seemed like a funky-cute thing to do, to kick off the second half of January, after the first half was all about “hiding” and “hibernating” (can we bury those words with hygge now?).

Apparently everyone in North London had the same thought. Twice in one night we were thwarted by Rowan’s in Finsbury Park, put off first by a large queue outside, then again after dinner when it really meandered. ‘Are we going bowling?’ we asked. “Oh, you’ll get in, but you won’t get a bowl!” said the cheerful security guard, proud to work with Rowan’s crowd. At least he dismissed us with a smile. Then, as a last resort, we ventured to another bowling alley to the east. There, we were greeted with peals of laughter.

“I miss the city at its spontaneous best IRL. When you didn’t need to configure Resy to notify you of dinner time slots”

Well, here’s my plan to unplan, do things on a whim, and be spontaneous, because again, those are the buzzwords that are supposed to be attached to this year. In 2021, people were talking about a good game when it came to spontaneity, while secretly thinking and hoping that normal would return. This year, unplanning is exactly what we know now. With our best-laid plans laid to rest, there’s of course the urge to throw poorly weighted balls down an alley without proper shoes (they let you do that in Rowan’s).

The infamous Rowan’s

/ at Rowan’s

While there’s something reassuring about the meandering queues and flea market bouncers, I miss the city at its spontaneous best IRL. When you didn’t need to configure Resy to notify you of dinner time slots. When you didn’t have to plan to go to museums/galleries with timed entries, you wondered if you were in the correct timed part of a queue that branches off in 10 directions. When you walked out, not sure where you were going, but met your friend at the NE exit of Oxford Circus and found out as you went.

Therefore, in an ode to filmmaker, artist, and personal heroine Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher’s brilliant 2002 public submission art site, Learning to Love You More, I set myself spontaneous missions. It may be an oxymoron. Before TikTok launched challenges, the app set tasks like photographing a scar and writing about it or singing a cover of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” I use it as a model for small achievable acts of spontaneity to get through the last days. How to unplan in a city that asks for plans all the time?

I pick up ramen flavors that I normally avoid at a Wing Yip supermarket and try one every day of the week. I’m going to go to a garden center and pick out a fantastic selection that probably won’t grow in my north-facing plot. I will finally take the 259 bus to its final destination Waltham Cross and find out if nearby Waltham Abbey is in fact as picturesque as its name suggests. I will be taking my daughter, Nico, with me and she will be questioning the whole trip. But why? Because these are the last weeks of a busy winter before the social calendar gets carried away and the chances of spontaneity dry up.

PS. We finally made it into Rowan’s after waiting two hours for an aisle. We had one game, when we both knew it would take at least five to get our true inside bowling rhythm. But at least we stubbornly checked that spontaneity box. Totally winning this unforeseen thing of 2022.