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Posts Tagged ‘The London Series’

London Life #2

Unlike most major cities on great rivers – the Thames is almost an afterthought to my daily life.  Until fairly recently, there was no good venue to just meeting friends and watch the water flow.  Instead my memories of it are of cold drafts when leaving the warm tube stops at Temple, Embankment and Blackfriars.  Oh and there was the one boat party when I did unglamorous some things in my twenties and which has never been repeated (smile). 

London and the Thames

London and the Thames

Most of the time, I only really encountered it when I had friends visit who had not been London before.  Then we went to its banks to see the House of Parliament, London Eye, Somerset House and the various other historic buildings that were built when water transport was quicker and safer than on foot and the shipping hub more promenate in people’s life.  I always lamented this – as having spent a fair bit of my formidable youth in Hamburg, Germany – as the water was simply part of the decor.  I met for example one of my closest friends sitting on the stairs of the Elbe while trying to write bad poetry and watching the swans swim in sun.  It always made me wonder why the Thames had become really more of a geographical restriction that denoted the ‘north’ and ‘south’ divide rather than something to show off and enjoy?

The London Eye

The London Eye

Obviously I wasn’t alone and in 90s began several major developments that have utterly rejuvenated the Thames.  There was the OXO Tower, which personally I think is nice to look at – but I am less thrilled with the over engineered interior.  Then there is the breathe-taking Tate Modern.  Here are some links that talk about its historical and architectural unique points which are much more eloquent than me.

The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern

But it was certainly the redevelopment of the South Bank Centre that cemented that the Thames will and cannot be forgotten as one of London’s focal points.  Over night if felt that it went form one of the most unglamorous places, to THE place to be.   The ‘South Bank’ is really a hugely complex group of museums, galleries, music venues, theatres, bars, restaurants and everything else your heart desires.  It’s the crème de la crème of it all – the National Theatre, the London Symphony/Royal Festival Hall, the British Film Institute, Hayworth Gallery … and it so on.  

Buying books with the National Theatre in the Background

Buying books with the National Theatre in the Background

At least once a month I land there whether I want to or not.  What is strange is that all of the venues have been there for a very long time, so actually what the ‘redevelopment’ was about was making it safer, adding a bit of glamour to type of food/entertainment venes, giving the whole place a facelift and adding cafes at street level to entice people to loiter.  Plus it capitalized on its 1960s architecture to focus on ‘urban’ life – such as graffiti, pedestrian zones and transport links – and made it all artistic. 

The bike and Skateboard Arena Covered in Urban Art

The bike and Skateboard Arena Covered in Urban Art

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London Life #1

The City of London on a Friday night

The City of London on a Friday night

I moved to London the first time in June 1996 at barely 25 years old. After spending three and a half years in Eastern Europe, I was in awe of how everything worked. But the little things caught me off guard. I never had the right change for the bus, spent hours in the supermarket looking in shock at everything one could buy, developed an expensive taste for shopping at Harvey Nichols and had almost more than a few accidents walking across the street looking the wrong way.

And I went through probably my worse egoistic, superficial and money-hungry phase of my life. My friends were all the diplomat or very wealthy Eurotrash crowd. I lived initially in the Nell Gwen House, which alongside the Chelsea Cloisters, was where all expats City kids were transited through in Chelsea. Then I moved to Millbank, overlooking the Thames, opposite the looming MI5 building and next to the Tate. I spent my weekends skirting from parties to visiting exhibitions and doing girly lunches along the Kings Road.

The Mayor's Office from the Direction of the Guildhall

The Mayor's Office from the Direction of the Guildhall

I also worked insane hours and was so exhausted most days that I barely took off my clothes before getting up and doing it all again. I had thought in Budapest that I was pretty cool and so anticipated that the move to London would be pretty easy. Basically I was young, ambitious and not a little bit full of myself. So it was initially hard for me to fathom how mistaken I was. I walked into a job that I was woefully inexperienced for and very out of my depth in terms of the level of major corporate politics. Men would come up to my desk and insist I make them a coffee, my boss got me drunk on a regular basis to feel me up and I had a company credit card with no limit. It all felt so cheap, but filled with my own and the ‘jobs’ self-importance (can one even say that?) – I pushed on with a hunger that I have rarely felt before or after.

The Juxtepose of Old and New - Beauty and well Something from the 1960s

The Juxtepose of Old and New - Beauty and well Something from the 1960s

And I was so in love with London. The architecture, multi-culturalism, the music and art and the food … especially after years of shortages in Eastern Europe! For someone who left their small town at 16 with the sole aim to travel the world, it felt like I did not have to go anywhere to experience the world – it was just at my feet when I walked out my door. Its no wonder that every time I have left it for any amount of time, I was like a boomerang and bounced back.

Something inside me has lately wanted to re-explore the city. I feel this need to document what I love about it and share the many memories I have collected over the years. So alongside my many random ponderings, I hope you enjoy this series of London.

A Sculpture outside WestLB

A Sculpture outside WestLB

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