Thursday, 15 March 2012

London


N.B. So, Olympics 2012 are coming to the Big Smoke. And thousands upon millions of tourists shall be descending upon our nations Capital, making the daily commute complete hell for thousands of City workers. But what is it about London that captivates the heart of so many?

London is one of those funny old places that you either love or you don’t. As a kid, I never really understood why the tourists would flock to such a smelly, dirty and polluted old city.  Nowadays, I walk around London with a quiet joyfulness in my soul. I enjoy the anonymity of being just another stranger in the crowd. I enjoy the bustle and murmur of foreign chatter in and around the ‘tourist areas’. I love walking along Westminster Bridge towards Parliament Square, cowering as St Stephen’s tower bursts up from the Houses of Parliament, and the mystery of watching that intricately unchangeable building, knowing that inside its walls all sorts of decisions and laws have been argued over.

I love the freedom it gives to Protestors (okay, whole ‘nother story), the random cobbled streets and the silent camaraderie as you help someone clamber onto a giant iron Lion at Trafalgar Square. I love the sights and the smells of Camden, the street performers in Covent Garden and the sounds and excitement of South Bank. I love the art galleries and the museums, the giant red buses and the ridiculous looking blue Boris bikes.  I love the buzz of a Premiere in Leicester Square, but also the stillness and tranquillity of St James’ park. I love the War Memorials and the dedications to our nation’s heroes, old and new.

I love that walking around, you cannot fail to realise that you are part of history, that wonderful men and women, world-changers and law-breakers and visionaries have walked those same streets before you. That despite Modern life and all it’s technologies, there are still simple and heartfelt traditions being practiced and relied upon – the River boat men, for example. Did you know that driving a boat up the river is still an occupation passed down through the generations? I love that.

I guess people flock to London for all different reasons, (most of them just want to have their picture taken in front of the London Eye/St Stephen’s Tower) but the main reason I have realised my love for London is this. That at its’ heart, London is just like every other city: there is crime and there is filth and there are historical buildings and tourist attractions. But those who love it do so despite its flaws, filth and detestable history. London is alive, it is breathing and it is magical. Its spirit and vibe scream louder than the issues it has faced. And so, you either love it in all it’s fullness, or you don’t. But you cannot take away from what it is. It is a place strangers can call home.
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