Yesterday I had time off. That’s right. Two free hours in London at my will in between work and a treat at the theatre. I was beside myself.
It was quite a warm day though the morning was cold and dropped the infamous London fog over everything and now while it has risen above our heads, it still lurked above the skyscrapers preventing any blue from entering and prompting English people to use phrases like “it’s very close” and “it’s trying to rain” to describe the weather. Because of this, I decided to walk into the nightlife area, mostly along the river.
My walk starts from London Bridge, where I have to push past the Spanish exchange tourists queuing to get into the London Dungeon
sporting fleshwounds and scars designed to make the queue more entertaining but leading the office workers into a moment’s panic when they wander into a mob of bleeding teenagers.
I cross the road past London’s first Gothic church. It’s bells are peelings for the 530 mass. I’m tempted, for the spirit rather than the religion but then get sidetracked by some very upright blood red tulips…
The road then takes me past the Golden Hinde
, an old boat which circumnavigated the world in a certain direction in a certain day and is now available for party hire or English school kids (it’s not cool enough for the Spanish).
The roads get narrower and cobbled because the lanes I am using used to be the same narrow lanes winding between warehouses loading into boats on the Thames. All sorts of heavy metal hangs above me, with Starbucks signs now hanging delicately off the edge.
I pass The Clink
prison, another tourist attraction, this one emitting Gregorian chants and some Roman ruins. There’s a new Wagamama
and I drool over the thought of chicken katsu curry and dumplings. But at 12 pounds, I’m thinking WongKei
at China Town might be a better budget option. There’s Vinopolis
where I vowed to never again try Chinese or Indian wines.
There’s no sign of the robot bar where you were served by robots. Perhaps because human customer service in London is so robotic that there was no incentive for people to go.
Back on the Thames, the tide is out and there are people fossicking for old bombs on the rocky shore. There are queues outside the Bankside Pier and I make a note to take the boat to work one day before I move jobs and house. There’s something decadent about taking a fast cat boat on the water to work…
Along the Thames Path, I’m constantly dodging runners. Of course, it’s the day after the London Marathon
, and having witnessed the finish one year, I can testify to how inspiring it us. I remember dragging Adrian along one year and he was so motivated that he went running out the door straight after work, and ran so fast that he threw up afterwards… No vomit this time, but I did have to dodge someone’s underwear as they came flying out of his back pack as he chugged along… More sensible, the man in new sneakers jogging in a pin stripe suit…
I pass the Globe
, where knights and dragons apparently gathered as late as yesterday for St George Day, the national day of England that only skinheads and the BNP seem to celebrate…
I reach the Tate
and recall falling asleep on a sofa there, nursing a hangover. I remember Dave, who was with me that time, wearing orange, the official colour of the Gallery and the same colour as the staff uniform, and he kept getting asked where the toilets where as he visited.
At Oxo Tower I go to see Fallout
, a GreenPeace endorsed exhibition of people whose lives have been ruined by Chernobyl and other nuclear fallouts. There are Ukranians people from Kazakhstan with swollen heads and bellies, shrunken heads and bellies, soulful yet empty eyes.
About this time, the bank calls and tells me I am overdrawn and I tell the man on the line that I am grateful he told me this just before I reached the second new Wagamamas on South Bank…Gabriel’s Wharf
has rows of empty al fresco seats beckoning, the National Theatre promise a couple of interesting plays, the NFT is featuring western films. The booksellers under the bridge are packing up and there are live musicians everywhere. This is my favourite Sunday afternoon haunt. I remember seeing the Wizard of Oz (original) at the NFT
and the little girl next to me saying “it’s okay, don’t be scared” when the witch first came on.
I fill mg bag up with leaflets from all the theatres and starting weaving in and out of the queues getting frisked for the London Eye
. I realize I am walking beyond my destination and jump on a tube to Picadilly Circus, where I have to confess I actually used a map to remember which was Shaftsbury Avenue
. Tickets in hand, I turn the corner into China Town. I love the colour, the light, the bustle and the bakery doing stuffed buns. I settle on partly raw on the inside and hot to burn on the outside dumplings drowned in soya sauce and a cheap and nasty glass of white wine. Then I go the littlest alley down Soho and eat some custard tarts outside a sex shop watching the pre-sunset prostitutes, and the businessmen “just having a look”.
The play itself was great. The times I have been to see the Royal Shakespeare Company
they have always brought extra light to the dialogue. There was humour in The Crucible
that I didn't get from just reading it. I had seen the same play performed about ten years ago by a Sydney theatre company and I thought that was a more dramatic interpretation. Even so, it was brilliant.