The best thing about being in London, is that it becomes familiar very quickly. It makes you feel at home. Settled in quickly. With different meanings to ‘settling’ in. You can be just another face in the crowd. Or be the perfect tourist. And, in both these cases, you are still ‘settled’-in…and connected. In heart, soul, pulse and pace. It grows on you. The first day you fumble at the Oyster card machine. Two days later you know the exact change to carry to the Pret-e-manger next door for your coffee and croissant. A week later, you don’t feel like leaving the city anymore.
I am in love with the massive variety of places you can find in this city… like a swanky cocktail bar hidden inside a fridge in a restaurant. You need a ‘password’ to go inside this one! Or that independent coffee shop situated in an old public toilet. Victorian ceramics. Squeaky clean now, I was re-assured.
And I really love that there’s always something happening around every corner, with a rush of people constantly hovering around. Like Dalhousie Square in Kolkata! London has a feeling of life to it; it bulges out of every street, nook and corner. It can be overwhelming, but is re-energizing at the same time. It is quirky as well. Imagine a city in which the pineapple is a symbol to flaunt wealth and prosperity! Christopher Columbus brought in these from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Since then, pineapples remained a rare delicacy for centuries. In the 18th century, a pineapple cost the equivalent of £5,000 today!
You always end up knowing someone in London. A friend. An old friend. A cousin’s friend. An ex-colleague’s nephew. Your father-in-law’s colleague’s daughter. An aunt. Your mother’s-aunt’s-neighbor’s daughter. “People don’t really give a toss what you think of them if they are whistling loudly to their music as they bike along the road at night, or if they break into a dance whilst waiting at traffic lights – because nobody knows or cares who they are anyway. It’s a strange sort of perspective to get used to, and one which can be either extremely liberating, or devastatingly restrictive – depending on how you feel about it.”: pearls of wisdom, from one such!But, even then, I get a feeling that in London you’re always anonymous.
My collection of post cards from London are all in black and white this time. All shot on my phone. Most shot during regular commute. Except that at times when I stopped by for the right person to fill my right frame. While I will rant at times, I want to let the pictures to tell most of the story…
I found it incredible that the St Paul’s Cathedral back in Kolkata is NOT modeled after the cathedral in London! The cathedral’s tower is modeled on the “Bell Harry” tower of Canterbury Cathedral and the cathedral overall resembled England’s Norwich Cathedral! This little detour was my favorite from my BT Centre office. The walk and this frame across the Millennium bridge. Almost every evening. Blissful. Oh, by the way, there is a pineapple crown atop the church in London.
The language of cabbies was so foul that Queen Anne laid down a fine for five shillings for abusive language in the 1700s! Probably the best-known fact about drivers is how well-educated they are about London streets. To become a licensed taxi driver one must pass the infamous “Knowledge Test”. This is no easy feat! Average time to study and pass is 2-4 years.. and we talk about what a dedicated profession medicine is! Oh and unlike Kolkata, shouting “Taxi” at a moving cab, at the top of your voice, and with a vigorous wave of your hand is technically against the law ! Unimaginable, I tell you.
She was as sweet as a lollypop! Crooning to Adele. Bright sunshine through her hay -hair, laughter in her blue eyes.. innocent as a budding rose! The gentleman helping her set up was someone she clearly revered. As she sang, every 30 seconds she would look up to him for an approval. The pleasant looking man gave her a nod and a comforting smile. While she set up shop on a Saturday morning, the Portobello market hadn’t gathered much crowd till then. I stood there looking at her in complete awe. Her notes were therapeutic to me for some reason.For a moment I had no care in the world. My world stood still. A perfect #righthererightthere moment!
The Portobello market wasn’t named after my favourite mushroom! Oh, what a shame. It was named after Puerto Bello, a port in the Gulf of Mexico which exported treasure to Spain and imported European goods into Central America.
Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, with a small fleet of British navy ships, captured the port in the battle of 1739 and to commemorate the event, pubs, streets and districts all over the Empire were named after Vernon and Portobello. This became a lane to sell things soon after, and then when it became really popular a few centuries later, they shot the movie “Notting Hill”. Oh, that isn’t true, is it?
” Mind the gap”- as they say! The tube route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is the shortest on the tube pathway. It’s actually possible to travel the distance faster on foot! Home to several celebrities, gritty duels and a dhobi ghaat, in the early 1600s( apparently, there lies a map in the archives somewhere that shows that Leicester Square was a place for drying clothes. Women would lay the clothing out in the grass to dry while nearby cows grazed!), a walk in this square was almost a mandate. Closer to this century, M&M had its head-quarters here and Karl Marx lived in Leicester Square in 1848 after several failed German revolutions. He stayed in a German hotel in the square and was visited often by his fellow revolutionaries…
Home to more millionaires than any other part of Britain, Hampstead is the place for which two of my dear friends buy lottery tickets every evening, so that one day they become rich enough to buy a home there! And, in all seriousness! The evening we were wandering about, he actually stopped, complained that he hadn’t been attentive enough to fill up his credit card. He stopped, topped his Visa with enough currency, to do what he believed would one day definitely bear fruit and reserve his place in the current list of distinguished address-bearers!
The Heath has three open-air public swimming ponds: one for men, one for women, and one mixed. Ponds, rabbits and large oak trees. Oh, the London skyline from the Parliament Hill is said to be legally “protected”! (What?!)
After a walk till the top of the “safe” hill in the Heath to fire our appetite, we went to a cozy wooden pub. That was a wonderful evening, you two! Thanks!
Dealers, interior decorators and those who love old and unusual things search through the 300 shops and stalls of Camden market. Several names (Camden Market, Camden Lock, or even Camden Lock Market ), multiple purposes, various opinions..all adding up to one quirky market! Home to several historic writers, including George Orwell, Mary Shelley, and Charles Dickens, the markets stands testimony to the fact the weird always rules! I couldn’t find a better way to end my last Sunday in London!
“Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew.. wanted to know what the river knew!” Every morning my little boy would speak to me over the phone asking me if the London Bridge has indeed fallen down… he wasn’t at all pleased with the present continuous tense update the nursery rhyme spoke about. Most evidently, now that Mamma was in the city where the bridge is, she should be able to provide him with a more believable real time update!
Was a different feeling in London this time. More soulful, and lived in. Not touristy at all. Sometimes in a frenzy. Sometimes idyllic. The madness of tourists on Oxford street, balanced with the serenity of the church organ one rainy evening inside the St Paul’s cathedral.
Call me back, London…quickly as you can!