Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Things I will miss about London

Let's start with something obvious. Red phone boxes.

Any cuisine, any time (pictured: North African)

Daffodils on the street

Tate Modern (and Tate Britain)

Blue plaques

Days like this.
Moss on my neighbour's brick wall.
The mosaics at Tottenham Court Road.

How my street becomes an explosion of colour in May.

Tube shenanigans.

The way English people lie down in the sun anywhere, any time, any place.


Back streets (of the non-boy band variety).

Front streets
Excellent music.

Random snow storms.

Feeling like an expert on the tube routes (relative to tourists, anyway).

Carpets of blooms (and Kew Gardens).

This earnest drag queen and his mates at Central Station.

The Intrepid Fox

Gunnersbury Park (and all the other parks).


The one thing I can't really photograph is what I love the most about London. That there is always something new and amazing to discover and to find it, often all you have to do is walk around a corner. Thanks for everything London. And thanks for reading, everyone.

Lauren in London (till Saturday)

Things I will not miss about London

Living in a house full of someone else's old furniture and where everything else is still on boxes...

...and with this couch and curtain combo.

The depressing point where Holland Park becomes Shepherd's Bush.

Staring at other people's feet while sitting out the sometimes interminable tube trip home.

Being so bored on the interminable tube trip home that you can't help reading the tube advertising.

(Of course) the endless stream of days like this.

My job.

The lack of flat whites.

Before you become completely alienated, I'm planning to follow this up very shortly with a post on some of the many things I will miss about London.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Primrose Hill and Camden

Today I bid farewell to my place of employment for the last 20 months. I am fluctuating between not really believing it, and getting carried away over every little event ("this is the last time I'll use this photocopier/drink from this coffee machine/sneak into my office 15 minutes late"). We're T-minus 9 days and counting from leaving London (although we're back for a little while in March before our ultimate departure from Europe).

People keep asking me if I've got a list of places to go before we leave, and I struggle for something to say. I think we did an OK job of getting out and about, and seeing new places as well as making ourselves at home in some other ones. I do feel sad about leaving all this potential for new (and old) excitement behind for the familiarity of Brisbane. But also I am looking forward to being part of the place again. I'm not sure why - maybe a combination of shyness and lack of awareness - but a lot of my memories of discovering London involve me creeping along the sidelines, staying out of people's line of vision, and snatching quick photographs before anyone notices. Very much like an outsider. I'm not unhappy about this - it's just the way it is (and the way I am). But I am looking forward in some ways to being somewhere where I know the bars, and the buses, and whether or not its appropriate to smile at a stranger without having to investigate and analyse before acting.

Having said all that, a couple of weeks ago I realised I hadn't yet made it to Primrose Hill, and for some reason this seemed worth rectifying, so we spent a Saturday walking through Regent's Park, up Primrose Hill, over to Camden and then back down into the city for a drink at the Intrepid Fox.

The boating lake at Regent's Park and a photographically opportunistic seagull.

Regent's Park on a fairly typical late January morning - chilly and bare, but still full of life.

London from Primrose Hill

After our momentous trek up Primrose Hill. It took a good three minutes.

This is nearby Chalcot Square, where Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes lived.

In fact maybe all this candy-coloured Primrose Hill sweetness was to blame for Sylvia's troubles in the first place.Stray wine glass on a Primrose Hill wall. I like to think this is the last remnant of an ridiculously extravagant soiree the evening before, just casually set down before the user jumped into the back seat of his town car and made off for Mahiki with his polo mates.

Getting closer to Camden, where even the real estate agencies have pop culture credibility.

Camden Markets

I also got to see inside the quite amazing Royal Automobile Club this week, but sadly I was intimidated by all the poshness into keeping my camera shut away in my handbag. So I can't show you pictures of the amazing gilded ceilings, the Turkish baths, the pristine indoor pool or the very smart navy blue 1952 Jaguar I saw. Take my word for it, it was worth seeing. I have been hatching plans to impersonate the kind member who took me there so I can sneak Ted in as well.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Boxing Day in St James Park

Sometime in January, when I may or may not have been boycotting a trip to Brighton with our houseguests, I took a rather ill-advised late afternoon trip into town and ended up in St James's Park. This is one London park I hadn't visited in at leats five years so it was charming to see, but as I mentioned, ill-advised. Because it was FREEZING. I don't think I've ever been so cold, even when were standing on that glacier in Iceland being buffeted by icy winds and snow. Of course this was mostly my fault as I had let myself be lulled into a false sense of insulation security by some milder weather and was therefore not sufficiently rugged up for a sunset stroll, outdoors.

St James's Park is of course adjacent to Buckingham Palace and Green Park, so I took the obligatory wander through the first park and past the palace. I felt a bit ghost-like, weaving silently through the excited tourists snapping photograph after photograph of the palace, which (of course) stubbornly failed to produce any royal people for them to look at.

The park itself was much quieter, possibly because most people are as not stupid as I, and were therefore probably at home drinking mulled wine under a knitted rug on the couch.

I do love this common London sight though - tangled bare branches arching across the sky. It reminds me of those eerie old fairytale books which haven't had the stories edited into child-friendly sweetness. I recommend you click on the photo to see the larger size.

There were a few souls bravely feeding birds at St James's Park Lake. Although I think I remember reading a very twee English book once (about a girl and her pony - lots of gymkhanas and lemonade) which explained that it was bad for ducks, nutritionally speaking, to eat white bread because it makes their organs swell up or something. I should try to verify that.

The park looking decidedly wintery

Signs of life...

Pigeons huddling together for warmth

Speaking of fairytales, the view across the path to Westminster struck me as very much like enchanted castles in the distance (click on the photo to get a better idea).

Wikipedia fact of the day: the area around St James's Park was named St James after the leper hospital, St James the Less, formerly located near the park.

This guy (below) seems to ride to the park on his bike with stocks of nuts for the squirrels. I didn't really manage to photograph it successfully but it was very entertaining - the squirrels seemed to have worked out a perfectly-timed roster under which, one by one, they would run along the fence in the background, down the gate and over to the man, only to take the nut, run off and be replaced by the next in line. If he got distracted and wasn't quick enough to produce the next nut, the waiting squirrel would sometimes run up his leg.

I hate to backtrack, so having entered the park at the Buckingham Palace end, I exited at the opposite end near Westminster. This is the Horse Guards building at the Westminster end (and a bit of the London Eye to the right).

I walked through the central archway of the building looking for Westminster tube station and found myself (along with hordes of tourists) in the midst of a Household Cavalry guard changing ceremony. There were policeman there directing the crowds into an orderly mob so no one would get in the way of the choreography. This made it impossible to escape as the exit gates were blocked by people, so I watched the entire thing while trying not to think about what would happen if I got frostbite of the nose. According to Wikipedia only the monarch is permitted to pass through the archway but that's either Wikipedian rubbish, or no one bothers enforcing that rule on Boxing Day.

Fittingly, I ended the trip with this view, before heading down into the subway and the tube.

I'll miss the way London always manages to effortlessly present another amazing view or eccentric scene. I won't miss the regularity with which I see vomit on the street, but that's a mystery for another day.