Why London is well good
I wrote a piece a little while ago having a big old whinge about the tube. All that is still true of course (and that prick STILL stands in front of the door when I’m trying to get on in the morning. SERIOUSLY MAN MOVE DOWN.) but I am also reading a wonderful book, all about this big smoggy, grimy, lovely, bonkers city we call London.
It’s called, ‘Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it’ by Craig Taylor, and it’s a series of interviews with a huge variety of people living and working all over the city, from pinstriped bankers, to cockney cabbies, to exasperated teachers, to shouty slangy market traders, to clacky manicurists- it’s a proper snapshot of people talking about what makes London theirs and why it’s so simultaneously brilliant and horrible.
When I first moved to London, I have to admit, I didn’t get it. London felt like a big in-joke that I wasn’t in on, no matter how hard I tried. I persevered though, and grew to love this city with a fluctuating, ever-changing love. Sometimes I love it like a lover, it makes my heart beat and butterflies dance around my stomach as I grin in wonder at how lucky I am to live here. Sometimes I love it like a sibling- it drives me absolutely mental and I want to give it a dead leg, but I know deep down that I love it unconditionally. Sometimes I love it like a parent, I look to it for inspiration and learn something new about life from it everyday.
This love takes work, loving this geographical lump of little boroughs and teeming wreaths of people does not go without some toil. So for me, what makes London good? Well, these thing for starters:
- The blue whale at the natural history museum (though this might be less to do with the whale and more for my general love of things that are MASSIVE or TINY. Like, I love it when fruit is the wrong size. I had some blackberries the other week that were as nearly as big as my palm. THE GASTON OF BLACKBERRIES. Mind-Blowing.)
- Walking over the bridges and staring down the Thames. (and inevitably instagramming it. Please see below as a reference point. )In whatever weather, from angry black clouds to (rare) blazing sunshine, this is always impressive and lung-fillingly brill.
- Watching the kids run in and out of the fountain that appears every Summer outside the Southbank Centre. The way they scream in delight as the jets fire up from the ground and grandparents round the edges roll their eyes tutting amongst themselves, ‘We haven’t got a towel…’ makes me chuckle.
- Fragazines. Stylist and Timeout and Evening Standard on a Friday oh my.
- The man who sells fruit outside Holborn tube station. I’ve spoken previously about his talents, but also, his ability to shout his head off in (often incomprehensible) cockney for hours every day shows a vocal technique that as an actor, frankly, I’m deeply jealous of.
- Empty tube carriages. I do a little sing when I get one. I’m Beyonce on the Jubilee line, Judy on the Piccadilly and Tom Jones on the Northern.
- ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by the Kinks. Gawd Bless Terry and Julie and the young London love they stand as a symbol for. Particularly this version of it by the brilliant Joe Stilgoe:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKnAFRzmppc
- Pearly Kings and Queens. (I REALLY WANT TO BE ONE THAT OUTFIT IS SO DOPE)
- The jewellery room at the V & A. I feel like I’m in the Cave of Wonders from ‘Aladdin’. Except there’s no sand guy who gets well pissy when you wake him up.
- Feeling like a don when you see someone try and feed their oyster card into the ticket slot on the tube barriers. Hahahhaahaha London-Muggles they don’t get it.
- The tube map and all it’s wonderful reincarnations. Clever people.
- Eating at places that aren’t Pizza Express/Cafe Rouge/Nandos/Wagamamas (but also knowing that these places are around most corners if you JUST REALLY WANT A POLLO AD ASTRA OKAY?)
- Topshop flagship. I think it might be bigger than Russia. Poor unsuspecting Males have died in there.
- Hackney urban farm. SHEEPS IN THE CITY. And one time I went there, they were having a whole day’s festival celebrating the humble apple. Seriously. The apple.
- Reading old shit like Dickens and Restoration Comedies and knowing the specific places where they’re set. Covent Garden has been cool for bloody ages.
- Cockfosters. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahaha. Samuel Jonson famously said of London, ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, but personally I think it should be amended to, ‘When a man is tired of laughing at Cockfosters, he is tired of life.’
- Street names like: Laycock Street, Cumming Street and Mincing Alley. More hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaa (oh my god I really want to do a pub crawl of these places. WHO’S WITH ME?)
- You can literally wear what the fuck you like and no-one bats an eyelid.
- Drinking in pubs that are older than America.
- Falling in love on the tube. the other day I had a full blown relationship with a man on the Piccadilly Line between Finsbury Park and Leicester Sq, where we met on the tube, fell in love, gadded around London like urban spring chicken, then got married in Westminster Abbey and Alan Carr was my maid of honour. that’s normal right?! GUYS?!
- Feeling like a king when you know which tube lines pass through which stations without having to consult the tube map app.
- The southbound platform at Angel. IT’S SO MASSIVE. I always want to skid down it on my knees like a naughty little lad in a mini waistcoat at a wedding disco. (Again, this point might have something to do with my love of things that are bigger than they should be.)
- When the sun pounds the pavement and the buildings glint and wink at each other, and Londoners occasionally smile a half smile at strangers and it just seems like the best place in the world.
Of course, there’s all the normal things that make London the best. Free museums, thriving theatre scene, Pride, Notting Hill Carnival, Buck Pal, the parks, but the things above are just a handful of things that for me, are why this city is literally the TITS. What are yours ?
P.S for those who are dying to know, here’s a picture of the KING KONG of blackberries. Enjoy.