Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Hometown Glory

I Knit Day and a visit from the Yarn Harlot have rather passed me by amidst the wedding road trip, but I've enjoyed catching up on events from the web.

The Yarn Harlot's blog of her trip was particularly great as there's nothing so pleasing as having an outsider recount their adventures in your hometown. Plus you are reminded of your own idiosyncrasies that seem so normal to you and bizarre to others (love her comment about when it started raining and how, apparently from nowhere, every Londoner simultaneously whipped out an umbrella - a few days was clearly not long enough for her to witness the truly schizophrenic quality of our weather and how every eventuality must be catered for at all times, thus every bag I own has been purchased on the basis of whether or not I can fit an umbrella and a spare jumper into it ).

As far as I'm concerned London is, quite simply, the best city on the planet (but then I would say that, wouldn't I?). Its history, culture, vibrancy, eclecticism, noise, contrasts, architecture, grime, pigeons, beauty and slight air of madness make it a place of constant discovery and surprise. But living here and seeing it everyday and cursing the Tube, the pollution, the traffic, can all too easily blind you to its delights. Hearing a visitor describe it in wonder is an important reminder of what a fantastic place it is. And there is something awe-inspiring to live in a city that has stood here for two thousand years and that has survived countless invasions, plagues, bombs and urban redevelopment schemes.

I've been slowly (very slowly) working my way through Peter Ackroyd's Biography of London and it somehow helps to dispel the lazy ambivalence I sometimes feel. However much a journey on the Tube may drive me crazy in the morning, there is something wondrous in pausing to think that it was built way back in 1863. Or that under Victoria station fossils fifty million years old were discovered. Or that there are about 40 abandoned, disused Underground stations littered through the city; crypts for a forgotten rush of travel and activity.

From below to above; I think it was Bill Bryson who said that when in London (or British cities in general) you have to remember to look up. As the Yarn Harlot found, it's only then that you really see the fabulous architecture and the details of the buildings which are otherwise often lost at street level.

So, had she had more time (and a less pressing need for buttons) where would I have directed Stephanie?

Well, I'm glad she found the National Gallery - one of my favourites and free entry to boot - but the British Museum is pretty amazing too. I defy anyone to stand in the Reading Room and not feel a rush of desire to pick up either a pen or a book (and I mean a solid fountain pen and a heavy, leather-bound tome).

Columbia Road flower market early on a Sunday morning is a joy, as are the sights and smells of Borough food market.

A walk along the South Bank takes in most of my favourite views and buildings and standing on Waterloo Bridge with St Paul's on one side of you and Westminster on the other is pretty special too.

Then there are the parks, the river, Liberty's, the 24 hour bagel shop on Brick Lane, the view from Primrose Hill, Daunt's Books on Marylebone High Street, the National Theatre, Tate Modern, and the jazz band that plays on a Saturday night at the Palm Tree pub.

I think I'm going to have to hit the town this weekend...

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