Being back in London for a week in September was hugely pleasant. This city has always seemed for me so easy to live in – i’ve felt at home there right from the time of my first arrival way back in 1977. London has been familar to me forever – i guess in part because i read so many books set in London and England all through my childhood and adolescence, and lived a good deal of my in-my-head fantasy life in that city and country. i longed in those years to escape from the dull narrowness of the provincal antipodean town i found myself trapped in, for what appeared to be the only genuine centre of intellect and culture on the globe – England. Years and university mitigated that escape imperative. Nevertheless when i did leave New Zealand for the first time, that was where i headed. And arriving from the Continent and stepping out of Victoria Station into the streets of London for the first time i felt instantly at home. i must have looked at home as well, since the very next day i was stopped and asked for directions – something which continued to happen frequently in all the days and weeks after.
London then has always felt like home, but it is special and pleasing and enlivening for many, many other reasons also. While it is familar, like a favourite shirt, it is also constant in another sense, as the sun’s daily return is constant – even if some of those London constancies get spruced up from time to time – yet it is for ever surprising you as well. You begin to think you know a particular corner of London, and then you discover something new you didn’t know existed just round a corner you’d passed a hundred times before. Amongst the new for us this visit were the Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral – wonderful – how could we not have experienced them before!
London is full of entertainments, both the organised and the incidental. We love them both. We get a great kick out brilliant theatre performances, such as the production of Medea with Diana Rigg in the name role we saw several years back, and this time the Complicite Company’s A Disappearing Number. We return time and time again to galleries, Tate Modern, the National, … – to see fondly remembered pieces and discover things new. Then there are the museums – some we’ve not made it to for even a first time yet: next visit. … Music, parks, architecture, shops, … and of course friends. The years passing has meant each time we return to London there are more friends there to catch up with than there were the time before, which is a whole treat in itself.
But actually just being there is enough. I don’t always want to “do things”, but i find i just want to be in London. To do the day-to-day stuff; to wander, to people watch, to sit and read or watch tv; to go out and buy food and come back in and cook and eat; to haunt a book shop for an hour and have a coffee, then go home [well the hotel] – but to do it, in London.
All of that is a delight. And we did it for a week again this September. Then when the week came to an end we didn’t really want to go, but, one has to. Fortunately as it turned out this time, it was Berlin we were going on to, and that proved to be great fun too.