I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Loving London #2

Ironically enough the previous post's contents had started off with a comment about how unfeasibly good my mood was today, heh. And as it goes after the initial rage (all directed at myself, the cock-up being entirely self-inflicted) I'm back in that good mood anyway so I'll try again.

I bloody love London. My commute in today inspired one of my not-frequent-enough moments of clarity and appreciation about just how ace this city is and how much I enjoy living* and working in it. It's a beautiful sunny day and there were (and no doubt still are) loads and loads of people out and about having a good time. And why not? It's piss-easy for me to take London for granted, what with having been born here and lived here all my life except for when away for 3 years at uni, but the fact is a massive amount of people will never get to see the things I see every day, and an awful lot will see them just once or twice in their life ever and remember it for the rest of their lives as something totally fantastic.

It could all have been so different. After leaving Manchester I went back up there a few times for job interviews, and could easily have ended up working for CIS or some company in Morecambe(!) rather than have a career which has kept me in constant employment in a London postcode for the past almost-10-years (10 this October; the first 10 months of my career were spent in Woking, gah). Today I'm really bloody glad that I was shit in those interviews.

When I set out in the morning I start my journey at a train station just 2 stops (about 10 minutes) from Hampton Court palace. Pretty historical and touristy, that. Have I ever been? Have I bollocks, heh. But I'm just round the corner while shitloads of people head there from all over the world. Go Surbiton!

Then what? Well, the train goes through Wimbledon. Pretty famous place, what with having that there tennis tournament in the middle of every summer (not been to that either, mind). Then Britain's busiest railway station, Clapham Junction, swiftly followed by Vauxhall, home to MI5 (or is it MI6?) and Surrey CCC. You can see the Oval from platform 8, and probably could have heard the roars from it when England sealed the Ashes win last year.
Parliament #2

Apparently the Russian word for train station is pronounced "Vauxhall" and spelt as closely as you can get for a language which uses that dumb alphabet with all its backwards Rs and shit. So the story goes -- a story I am only too happy to perpetuate without bothering to research its validity -- a Russian VIP of sorts came over on a state visit to England a whole bunch of years ago and was taken to Vauxhall. He asked what it was and was told but misunderstood, thinking the response was a noun describing the type of structure and not, as it actually was, just the name of the place. Silly bastard, heh.

*cough* Anyway, from Vauxhall the train hugs the side of the Thames most of the way into Waterloo, and before arriving you can see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. Waterloo itself is impressive enough and housing Eurostar (until the east and north steal it, the fuckers) means its also the entry point to London and the UK for a lot of people. I get to go there every day!
another k800i test photo

Thousands of people use the tube every day in Central London. These people are fools. Well, not all of them, but from Waterloo to Tottenham Court Road there really is no contest between the Northern Line and the 176 bus (or the 1, but that doesn't suit the points I'm making nearly as well ;)). Because, not content with all the sights I've already taken in from the train, there's considerably more to come before I get to me desk.

The top deck is where it's at. Top tip for bus travel from Waterloo: to virtually guarantee a seat up there the trick is not to join the long queues at Waterloo's bus stops. Instead I walk one stop further away from work/the river and get on there. I may not always get a seat when I board, but I'm already on the bus when it half-empties as people change onto trains/tubes, thus having jumped the entire queue and in prime position to nick a recently vacated spot upstairs.

Round the side of the IMAX we go and between some of the South Bank's buildings (eg, the Royal Festival Hall) and here's Waterloo Bridge. To my left there's Big Ben and the HoP again, plus Hungerford Jubilee Bridge and Charing Cross station. To my right I can see St Paul's, the Phallus, the City of London skyline, a few bridges and the South Bank's sights. On a sunny day, or after dark, Waterloo Bridge is awesome and I don't think I will ever get tired of crossing it.
Eye 2

The Strand is famous the world over. Being on the Monopoly board helps, as does having a few decent theatres, the Savoy Hotel, and leading towards (on my commute) Charing Cross station. When I'm there I'm 0 miles from London - IIRC it's the point which all road signs in Britain are referring to when they say "London XX" (miles). The bus carries on past the ends of Whitehall and the Mall and hugs the edge of Trafalgar Square for a bit, all tourists and works of art and tables at which to drink coffee and statues and pigeons and pedestrianisation (good job Ken!). Then Leicester Square looms before my departure point just before Cambridge Circus. Another huge and famous theatre and a four-way junction. To my left, Chinatown and Soho; to my right, Covent Garden and St Giles. Without my weight slowing it down the bus speeds on up past what used to be the Marquee club, past Denmark Street/Tin Pan Alley and Centre Point, left along Oxford Street (Oxford Street!) and finishes at Oxford Circus. Before it's even there I'm at me desk. Not exactly an inconveniently placed office if I want to do a it of shopping. Or see a show. Or a film. Or eat some fantastic cuisine from any country in the world. Or have a beer. Or see some sights. Or...

Londoners like to bitch and whine about London (go read the Metro and Evening Standard letters pages FFHS) and I'm not exactly a stranger to bitching and whining meself. But I shouldn't, because London's fucking ace and I'm massively privileged to live and work here. I get to be a tourist in a huge and fantastic city every single day, and I also get to call it home.

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