Friday, July 28, 2006

Okay in YooKay ....

from Jacqueline

Considering the fact that temps were in the 100-110 degree bracket when I flew out of LAX on Monday, it rather takes the cake to say I landed in a place that was even hotter - London! Would you credit it - sweat running down my spine in a tickling rivulet, my hair plastered to my head, feet throbbing - and they still call it Cool Britannia! The London Evening Standard headline this afternoon reads, "Mugged For Water." Stick 'em in the Tower, that's what I say, then hold them over the Millennium Bridge.

Actually, I got out of London at the earliest possible opportunity on Wednesday, and retreated to my parents' home in rural Sussex - cooler, and the food is free. But here I am, up in the Smoke again today (The Smoke - what Londoners called London, in times past). This town rocks, it really does. Everywhere you go there are pavement (sidewalk) cafes, great restaurants, clubs, boutiques with clothes that all but scream, "Be different!" and along with that a hubbub of conversation spiked with a medley of accents from around the world. I may have lost my heart to San Francisco, but there's a root or two still weaving its way into this ground.

When I was a kid, London was in monochrome. I cannot remember color at all. We would come up from our home in Kent (the county to which my parents had run to when they escaped bombed out post-war London)and whether it was by train or bus, the view always seemed the same. Soot-blackened houses and bomb sites, many of which remain to this day, a gray muddy river to cross and then a few days spent in a place where there was not a shred of green.

My memory of London is akin to the images that came to mind when I read Dickens. And there were more than a few Artful Dodgers around.

The City of London was Dickens' domain - no, I don't mean the whole of London, just the area known as "The City" - you'd call it the "financial district" but it was the area surrouded by the old London wall, parts of which still remain. A couple of days ago I visited the Museum of London, close to St Paul's Cathedral, which essentially tells the history of this place from a time before time as we know it began. It's a great place to wander, though for me the whole area seems a bit too modern now. Much of that is due more to the Luftwaffe than to progress, and like many cities around the world, there was too much rebuilding done in the 1960's - a decade that inspired what Bill Bryson calls the "F**k you school of architecture." But the names still remain, like "Paternoster Row" and the world-famous "Threadneedle Street." I made my way around the cathedral - oh, if that building could talk - on my way to the Millennium Bridge, a steel pedestrian walkway across the Thames, built to commemorate the turn of the century. As you walk across, the story of the Thames is told, engraved into the steel, a modern phenomenon with roots in history. On the other side, there's The Globe, the famous theater built as a copy of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre. And if you didn't already know, it was an American, Sam Wannamaker, who spearheaded the project to bring Shakespeare's theater back to life. If the name rings a bell, his daughter is Zoe Wannamaker, the Harry Potter's flight instructor.

As I speak, time is running out on this computer - yes, I'm in an internet cafe, though not Revolver (see my blog last week), and I only bought an hour's worth of time.

I love this city, I love the way you can see the way history coming round again here. In the 17th century, London was known throughout Europe for its coffee shops, for the salons and for its multicultural society made rich by immigration. I think the London of today shows that fashion comes round again, for whatever people say about the mix,I think there's more to be gained than lost. Of course there are things I can't stand about it, but that's true of any city. Samuel Pepys, the diarist, famously said, "if you are tired of London, you are tired of life." I guess I've got a few years left in me yet!"

(I know there are typos in this post, but I have a dodgy computer and cannot make corrections - so here we go, publish and to heck with it!)


  1. Cyber cafe? Your dedication is truly awesome. Hope you have a jolly good trip.

  2. Jackie, I used to work for the Lime Street crowd down in the city ( Lloyds) London is insanely good.

  3. Ms. Winspear,

    Was expected a line or two of the handsome stranger you met in premium ... although you did ask to change seat! Only joking, hope the jazz was jazztastic and you enjoyed your stay.


  4. I loved your description, London has obviously changed since I was last there, but not much. Try Dublin and Amshterdam for comparison.