Yesterday I had to go to London to go to a meeting at Bloomsbury Publishing by Bedford Square. It’s a long way to go from Shrewsbury but I only usually have to make the journey about once a year. I look forward to this trip for weeks. It is a very exciting thing for a freelancer to have to do: travel, attend a meeting, and act important.
While in London yesterday, I came up with Ten Things I love about a day trip to London and some may be a little odd.
Starting with this one. I love the fact that London is grubby. To me the grubbiness is part of its history and tradition. London has been grubby ever since the Romans named it. It was grubby during the dark ages. It was grubby in medieval times. It was grubby when the Victorians were roaming the streets. And it was grubby during the war. It is grey, dark and drab. But that is what makes it so special. It smells of metal and dust. After a day in London I return home feeling as if I am covered in a layer of grime. Have you ever picked your nose after a day in London? You may not be surprised to find that London turns your snot black.
London is a people magnet. It is full of the weirdest and wonderfulist mix of people from all over the world. They are a huge source of inspiration to me. The city is a complete stew pot of the human race. It is a Boxing Day meal of whatever you can find in the fridge. I love it. I love the clothes the people wear, the books they read, the way they walk, the way they talk. I love everything about them. If I were braver, I’d bring my camera with me and take photos of the people. Shrewsbury isn’t so cosmopolitan. It is a cheese and ham sandwich. So for this reason London fascinates me.
Besides the metallic smell mentioned above, London also smells of food, in a similar way to New York. It smells of pubs, smoke, chips, BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, curry, chips and frying.
London is dangerous. It is full of shops. Luckily for my bank account, I didn’t pass any bookshops yesterday. Unluckily for my bank account, I did pop into the ginormous Top Shop on Oxford Street.
London is full of art. It is full of art galleries and museums which display art. Besides the famous and the biggies, it also houses many medium-sized ones, little ones and tiny ones. Yesterday I went to exhibition of digital-inspired art at Somerset House called Big Bang Data. The exhibition was very thought-provoking. At home, I’d have to travel to either Liverpool, Manchester or Birmingham to come across an exhibition of that size and scope. Londoners are so lucky. They don’t have to go far.
The Art Part Two
London is also full of inspiration for art: mostly because of The People (see above) but also the history, the architecture, and also, to some extent, the smells.
If you were to compare London to Tokyo you would be struck by two major differences: Tokyo is clean and Tokyo runs smoothly. London seems to be quite messy and a little chaotic. Crossing the road is quite scary in London. Everyone else seems to know where they are going. I don’t. I feel like the lone lost wonderer when I go to London. I wear my country-bumpkin status on my coat.
I love the tube for many of the reasons above – it is dirty, it is full of people, and it is smelly. The tube really is very grimy. But when I think of the London Underground I think of wooshies of warm air, people who don’t exchange looks, people on phones, people reading, people kissing around a pole and people slumped in seats looking depressed. All good fodder for an artist like me.
London, despite having such a good underground network, is all about walking. Travelling by the Tube may seem like a way to get to the place you want to get to quicker but actually it isn’t. It’s a myth. For two reasons. Firstly, the distance you may travel on the Tube around central London isn’t that far and wouldn’t take you that long to walk. There is this illusion that to get from, say Euston to Leicester Square you must catch the Tube. Secondly, catching the Tube entails a huge amount of walking, to the platform, from the platform, between platforms if you have to change. Walking direct from A to B is often much quicker.
Nowhere else I’ve ever been to has escalators like London. They are fast and they go on for ages and ages. They could take you up to the top of the Wrekin. If you have a fear of escalators, London is not the city for you. I like to read the posters on the walls as they slowly wizz past me. I also like the fact that the overtaking lane is on the left-hand side whereas on a motorway the overtaking lane is on the right . Why is that?
But would I ever want to live there? I’m not sure. I think New York still wins.