fear not, i shall not be continuing in the style of e e cummins or of archy (cockroach friend of mehitabel, the moth): i have no real objection to capitalisation of text. THOUGH I PREFER TO AVOID SHOUTING!
This post will instead explore my ambivalence about visiting (or indeed residing) in the capital city of these diminished isles.
Readers may wonder why I have included an extremely dodgy image of the London skyline, which at best bears a passing topological similarity to the actual city and suggests an entirely unrealistic calm and clarity to the River Thames. Well, I am now using a WordPress feature whereby these posts automatically appear on my Facebook feed and have discovered that unless a post includes an image, my Facebook massive are exposed to a giant image of my crumbling visage: and nobody wants that…
On Easter Monday – a concept which Biblical scholars, theologians and those from outside the British Isles may find hard to understand – I went up to London after lunch for an afternoon and evening of “fun”. This reminded me of both what I love and find really irritating about visiting the big smoke.
The inbound journey is generally fine as one is filled with hope and excitement for the activities to come. This feeling survived reasonably well until I reached the British Museum. New security arrangements mean a long queue to enter that august repository of stolen goods. Once through the security cordon, the museum was heaving with other people – which makes me wonder just how good the security can have been. I love the concept of other people, but the reality of them en masse and dawdling around does rather test this love. I was at the BM to see the American Dream exhibition of 20th century prints. This had much to enjoy and a fair chunk of works which struck me as a waste of materials: my taste in the visual arts definitely has limits, even if I’d be entirely unable to describe where they are. I also strongly suspect that my taste in more modern art is an expanding (or at least morphing) envelope: today’s waste of wall space may be tomorrow’s masterpiece. I think I’d feel cheated if I went to an exhibition and loved everything, there would be something important missing.
From the BM, I headed over to Islington to the Bill Murray (from one BM to another! I don’t just through my time together you know): a pub which is now (mostly) a comedy venue. It is still a small pub and offered a very potable pint of Marston’s 61 Deep – albeit at a price I would associate with drinking in Scandinavia (but that’s London for you). I had not journeyed just to enjoy over-priced pale ale, but to see the comic stylings of young Ivo Graham. Don’t tell the lad this, lest he lose the run of himself, but he was the “hook” on which the cultural coat of my day was hung. He was very funny, even if I did form rather more of the act than I’d expected or than he had intended: I provided rather more filler to his work-in-progress hour than necessary. I even had a brief chance to chat to him after the gig – before he had to race to Hatfield (not to the world-famous poly but to watch a netball match). I am pleased to report he is as charming a chap in person as I had imagined having seen and heard him (from a distance – and in his professional capacity, I am not stalking the young lad) over the last 3.5 years. As a further bonus, he provided an opportunity for me to use the phrase “vespine foe” in a tweeted reply later that evening as I sat on a bus passing St Paul’s: for which I remain in his debt.
I too had to leave the BM(2) reasonably promptly to head over to Dalston, for a quick bite of supper and a play at the Arcola. I supped at Café Route which offered a splendid selection of vegetarian (and even vegan) friendly salads and small plates coupled with a huge range of cakes. Reader, I rather over-indulged as not only were things very reasonably priced but the slices of cakes were pleasingly generous: consuming two might have been verging on gluttony.
Suitably stuffed, I then waddled the short distance to the Arcola Theatre to see The Plague, based on Albert Camus‘ 1947 novel. Well, I do like to mix light and shade on an evening out. The play was very well done and only mildly harrowing. I’ve been meaning to read some Camus for years, and this was probably a good substitute and takes some of the pressure off me for a while.
The bus ride back to Waterloo was fun, traversing parts of London I’ve never visited and offering an excellent view of St Paul’s. I always find that it is the journey home which is the key downside of going out in London. If I go out in Southampton – which I do no more than five times in a typical week – when the fun comes to an end, it is a mere 10-15 minutes before I’m home enjoying a herbal tea before being tucked up in my trundle bed. If I go out in London, there is 2-3 hours of post-fun time-wasting before I am reunited with my straw palliasse. This is too long at my advanced age and it somehow takes some of the gilding off the earlier fun. I think this is why I find myself going to London less and less often – though there is also the sheer number of reasons to stay in Southampton for my culture and the desire to support the local product. Still, I fear unless there is significant progress on the transmat in the near future, my visits to the capital may remain a rare “treat”.