I’d been pottering around earlier scratching my head over the significance of today’s date. It kept staring back at me throughout the morning. Checking my phone, flicking through my diary, composing a letter. There’s something about today. It took till lunchtime to twig it.
I was in a similarly listless state that morning, landing in late to a Mexican heave of relief across speechless faces of colleagues. What? Surely being late isn’t a crisis that merits such a reaction.
The news was haemorrhaging across the city. Russell Square. Tavistock Square. Edgeware Road. They meant little to me before. Now they’re universally known place-names synonymous with death and destruction.
The eeriness trickled southwards over the bridge as the day wore on. Peckham. Camberwell. Brixton. All reverent wake houses with business not as usual, heads shaking in disbelief.
A few posts back I mourned my own wee corner of London. Friday evenings down The Hermit’s Cave where we convened for weekly secular mass. Here are another few aspects of London living I still miss by way of my salute to the great city.
- Getting an education. On the lives and outlooks of people from all around the globe. A city that’s a compendium of the world; capable of knocking the edges off all generalisations and prejudices towards folk you only think you know. Sharing a city with umpteen other nationalities serving as a reminder that we’re nothing particularly special. Most Muslims I met were moderate, gracious, and braced themselves tighter as the backlash began. Paddy Irish Bomber finally displaced as the receptacle for native suspicion.
- The status of madness. Not at yourself? Away with it? The nerves at you? Got a problem with that? Cause in London they don’t. They positively embrace it. And they don’t shy away from it. Madness is a form of madness as legitimate as all others. They don’t have euphemisms for it, but they do have festivals in the name of it. The feast of St. Madness used to fall on an August Saturday in Camberwell. Officially known as Bonkersfest. Reclaim the craziness.
- The iconography. Battersea Power Station. Free to on-looking neighbours. Anywhere from a tenner upwards to those who choose to fly in and out of Gatwick just to get up close to it on the train route. It’s still too soon to talk about the day they replaced the Number 12 Double Decker with a bendy bus. Where did that dread-locked Jamaican conductor go? Re-deployment. The curse on those charming characters.
- 24 hour independent cinema and comedy clubs (more or less) with, wait for it…..air-conditioning. And there’s more… some without popcorn. Exclamation mark, exclamation mark.
- The Buzz. Mouthy street vendors. Fifty four thousand different kinds of food. The equivalent number in attitude. Three million pairs of feet storming in different directions underground. Skateboarders on the South Bank. The audience in Peckham cheering Bridget Jones’s release from that sweaty Thai prison. Standing in the middle of the largest English city not understanding a word being said around me. Slipping into the little church off Leicester Square to get my head showered next to others praying to a God I don’t believe in. Being asked where Ireland is. Police sirens. Anonymity. Community. The posh end. The dodgy end. The up and coming end.
London. Facking brilliant. Init.