Wednesday, 5 September 2012

London is bloody great.

Imagine you've just got off the train at, let's say, Embankment station. You travel up the escalators, on the right side if you're walking on the left if you're happy just to stand and enjoy the ride. Adverts for the West End's best posted all the way along the wall, you look at every one as if the second Matilda poster will be any different from the last one you'd seen. Still you're enticed and say to your friend on the step below, "oh I really want to go and see that." though I doubt that you will. Finally the upwards journey ends and you arrive at the barriers. You've got your card your ready to go, pop it in or swipe it, always that moment of panic as you feel a crowd of people swelling up behind you and this machine decides that it doesn't like your card. It's fine, it went through, the gates have opened, you are now free to roam the streets of London. Look behind you, you're friend's right there, together you create a tiny number in the huge bustle that is the people. You can't stop, you'd hold people up, you just have to keep moving. Moving along with the crowd, the flow, whatever you want to call it. You arrive outside, even more noise, cars churning out fumes, people chatting, machines roaring, trains rattling. You turn to your left and start to walk up the stairs. You accidentally touch the railing in a day dream, "urgh!" you exclaim, "Millions of people touch that everyday. Think how many germs are on that!" "Oh stop whining." Your friend says as you continue to ascend. The last steps are here, it's not a long journey but you can hear it, you can smell it. It's here.

You have reached the top of the stairs. You look round and you can see everything. Glorious, beautiful London is right there before your eyes. The river is rushing beneath the bridge, tour boats full to the brim of people waving at you enthusiastically from below. To your right, the Gerkin, the OXO building, and the Festival Hall. To your left, if you ignore the train track then you can imagine the Houses of Parliament standing so majestically on the riverbank. You make your way through the long strand of people. Business people, tourists, families, couples. There's a Rastafarian playing the steel drum as you pass. A sweet melody drifting out into the heavy bass of a city. A train whooshes past on you left, the great rumble of the tracks ridding of all other sound for a few seconds. The wind whirls past, whipped up from the water. The sun is peaking through the mass of grey cloud that makes the city look like a painting. All manner of life is happening in every direction and "this is great" you think. "This is really great." You're coming to the end of the bridge now, and the crowd thins out. Another set of stairs to descend into another new world.

You are now in the artistic, buzzing South Bank. Some new exhibition is placed along the walkway, kids running in and out of huts playing music or an audio description of the meaning behind the work. The sun is fully out now and people sit sunning themselves on the astroturf outside of Foyle's or sit on the stairs eating sandwiches from Eat. You walk along to see the colours of the National Theatre, another crowd buzzing about watching some creative dance performance, a free expression of art for any passerby. You take a peek, it's good so you stay until the end, a quick stop at the theatre unplanned, but brilliant. Now that it has finished you want to visit somewhere else, so you walk back along where you came but instead of climbing the stairs you came down, you walk a bit further to the second lot of stairs, on the other side of the bridge. This time when you ascend you can see the Houses of Parliament and the clock tower that houses Big Ben. The London Eye is there too, spinning round and round full of people gazing at the wonderful sites. Along the bridge you go, another group of people you pass, more lives screaming loudly into the symphony of the city. You come off the bridge and walk up a street full of hotels you could never afford to stay in. "I bet you George Clooney's stayed in that one." Your friend points. "I bet you he has." You reply. Out from the rather quiet street you come into the loud rush that is Trafalgar square. Nelson sits proudly on his column staring at the boasting National Gallery, full of some of the world's wonders on canvas. People are everywhere, climbing on the lions, walking up or down the stairs, sitting on the stairs, taking photographs of friends, staring over the balcony onto the square, just passing by. It's a beautiful chaos. And you know that everywhere in London this chaos continues to happen, every day and every night. A huge and wonderful cacophony of life.

Imagine you're just getting on the train at, let's say, Marylebone station. People are filling up the seats as the train waits patiently for its time to leave. You've had a lovely day in London, you and your friend. Your feet now ache and you're ready for a nap. The warmth of the train is comforting and starts to send you to sleep. You remember what you saw today, and what you heard and smelt and touched and felt. All the people that you saw, all the buildings, all the sights. The music you heard, the chatter, the noise, the life. You remember the city that you visited, just moments before, and a smile spread across your face. "London it great." You think, "Just bloody great."

I wanted to give you a small snippet of what it's like to be in London, and this isn't even near to a quarter of what you see and do. I just adore the city, it makes me proud to be a part of the country, that I can call this city mine. I think it's a real tribute to the people of Britain, the workings of it. But I also think it's a wonderful welcoming to the people who visit. It's a wonderful place to be at any time. It has a magical feel to it, you can't explain what it is exactly but there's just something about it. There's just something wonderful about London.