Down the Smoke

Would you Adam and Eve it? I have a few days off with the trouble and strife and we decide to go down to London, unaware at first that the whole city would be given over to the dear old baked bean. There were so many about it got a bit Mariah Carey.

Personally I just about prefer Paris and Manhattan, but no doubt about it, London is one of the world’s great cities. Since the last time I was there they have new tallest building, the Shard, pictured above. The most curious thing about the Shard is its location, as all the other tall buildings are on the other side of the river. One good thing about London skyscrapers is their names. Apart from the Shard, the previous holder of the most iconic building award was the Gherkin, and in a couple of years’ time, it will be replaced by the Cheesegrater.

In one respect London is head-and-shoulders above the other great cities, and that is in the quality of its pubs. No other English city comes close, either. We were reminded of this during the Thames river pageant on Sunday (June 3). On the previous day we walked around the city, noticing quite a few tents on both riverbanks, twenty-four hours before the event. It turned out that in order to get a decent view, this was just about the only way to ensure it. We did get close for a while, standing on London, but then the police and security decided that things might get out of hand and moved us all on. This wasn’t such a bad thing, as it was raining, we’d have had to be there at least another three hours in that rain, and the view wasn’t too great anyway. So we decamped to The George, where Fleet Street blends into the Strand, opposite the Old Bailey, and watched it all on big-screen TV, accompanied by a couple of pints of London’s finest. The performance of the security services – some of the tube was closed down peremptorily – gave me a some cause for concern for the Olympics, but all the news stations were reporting a triumph of organisation.

We could have ventured to The Mall the next day, and stayed to take in the atmosphere of the Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, but allowed other business to dictate otherwise. Normally I wouldn’t be too interested in Cliff Richard, Elton John or Paul McCartney but watching, again, on TV, it was clear that the sense of occasion more than made up for it. So that was a shame.

We did try to see the Olympic area, in East London. In recent history this has been the most neglected part of the city, but now it’s transformed, and although it’s still a work in progress, it should eventually equal anything that West London has to offer. However, the stadium area is still fenced off. To get a view, which even then isn’t too great, one has to wander up to the fourth floor of the nearby John Lewis department store:

Like Paris and like Manhattan, London is a place that’s exciting just to be there, let alone live there. Every building tells a story. I don’t go there enough.

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One response to “Down the Smoke

  • CMB

    I really enjoyed this entry – the prose excellent and also the content – be wary of using the modern jargon (work in progress) – you’re better than that ! CMB

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