Monday, July 2, 2018

Ordinary. Also extraordinary.

This is an unusual trip to London for me. There is family involved, and work, so it feels more like being than doing, which is rare in my travel experience. It also gives another angle on the city, which is interesting - and, initially anyway, mildly disappointing. It was too easy to get bogged down in trivial details, and notice only the nuisances like, currently, the too-hot weather, the litter, the chewing gum on the footpaths, and crowds everywhere. 

Emerging from our very ordinary hotel for a walk, I found myself caught up in construction detours, back entrances, a waste transfer station, and backwaters of the Thames that were full of plastic. it was uninspiring - even though, on my way back from Putney to Wandsworth, the terraced houses were neat and pretty, and the summer flowers in their gardens blooming happily. There were even people playing cricket in Wandsworth Park by the river (where I walked behind a man with a strong Sarf Lunnon accent telling his friend, "Fiji has long, long beaches. Like Bournemouth"). But my focus was narrow, and my feet were hurting, and it wasn't fun.

Oh, but then we took an Uber across town to go to the theatre, and everything changed. It was just an ordinary trip from A to B - but the route was inspiring, with one famous landmark after another: Battersea Power Station again, Chelsea Hospital, Sloane Square, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner with the NZ war memorial, the Ritz, Piccadilly Circus, and then all the theatres. It all looked so sharp and bright under a cloudless sky, with cheerful people thronging the footpaths intent on having a good time, red double-deckers and black taxis in the roads, flags and banners, wonderful architecture old and new... It was so exciting to be in amongst it all.
And of course it helped that we ate and drank at a lovely old pub, Waxy O'Connors, and then went to see 'Everyone's Talking about Jamie' at the Apollo Theatre, which was brilliant - fun, energetic, touching, honest and so well performed. Afterwards, the streets were still full of happy people, the buildings were lit up, the air was warm, and our trip home went through Trafalgar Square, past Downing Street, Westminster and Big Ben (currently swathed in scaffolding), the Tate, Albert Bridge, the Thames... Yeah. London. Great city.

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