Wednesday, 28 November 2012


London is still the fantastic mix of places, people and experiences that I remember from the last time I was there, way back in the 20th century.  I spent a lot of time in galleries, in museums and in parks.  I also spent a bit of time just walking around the streets looking and one of the things you notice almost everywhere is the new pushed right up against the old in a way that is both surprising and exciting.

London is definitely not stuck in the past architecturally.

Even in the British Museum, the new overlooks and envelops the old

Of course, some of it could be just a bit silly.  The pointy thing in the background of this picture will, when finished, be London's tallest building and anyone with twenty five pounds or so to spare will be able to catch a lift to the top and look at the view.

That's just a bit more of the view that you can see from the round thing on the right side of this picture

and from the top of the rocket shaped thing on the right side of this picture.

The first time I came across the pointy thing it looked like this so definitely not a day for spending a small fortune to catch a lift to the top to look at the view.

One of the other things you notice when walking about is that there are lots of messages left out for the public to take note of.  In fact, there are so many of these you wonder how the illiterate get by.  Some of them are quite informative.

(this is the bit of wall referred to).

 Some of them are more warnings than informative.

Some claim to be polite even when they aren't.

And some even achieve politeness.

Then there are those that make no pretence of being friendly.

This one would be a shock for anyone coming to London with Mary Poppins fresh in their thoughts

and I'm not sure this one, with a picture of a rat, would help them understand the rule although to be fair, the fine print explains that it's not just birds that you are feeding.

Some of the messages should be entirely unnecessary, but obviously are not.

'Visitors are kindly requested not to sit on these works of art' (in an art museum).

'The use of shampoo & shower gel is prohibited in this area' (on an outdoor shower in Hyde Park).
'No bathing, fishing or dogs allowed in this lake' (also in Hyde Park).
I think, however, this is my favourite (seen inside a bookshop).

And while not exactly in the same category, I did quite like this one too.

In fact, I liked the buses a lot even though travelling around on them often seems to take longer than walking.  Even with the congestion tax, central London is still congested. Apart from the buses, there are the taxis, multitudes of pedestrians

and to top it off, rickshaws (seriously) all along Oxford Street.  Presumably these are for the tourists who don't like buses and who are too lazy to walk although, looking down from the top of the bus, it seemed a pretty dangerous way to travel.

On my first Saturday in town there was a demonstration against government spending cuts.  Not only was it well attended, but it was also very colourful.  It struck me that we almost never see this kind of public display of political views in Australia.  Is that because we have nothing to complain about?

I also saw some great art while I was there.  Pieces like these, now in the British Museum but originally on the Acropolis in Athens and, as the descriptions make clear, taken by Lord Elgin with the permission of the Ottomans who were in charge of the place at the time.

And to be honest, I was glad to be able to see them where they are and not have to go to Greece for that pleasure.  (I later found another set in the Louvre with the same 'taken with permission' message displayed nearby.)

I also found out where quite a stash of Marie Antoinette's furniture from the Petit Trianon ended up.  It's right here in central London, in the Wallace Collection

a remarkable display of how those with obscene wealth, 'earned' from the use of slaves, convicts and natives in the colonies, used to live.

No doubt there are mansions right across London (as well as Paris and Rome) still bursting with similar priceless treasures locked away from public view. 

But one of the great things about London is that so much of what you want to see is free - the galleries, the museums, the parks.  Some of the parks are immense

and some are on a much more manageable scale.

They are well cared for,

well used, 

with an array of fountains

and memorials

and even in November,  with garden beds that still look fabulous

(Note the eucalypt right in the centre of this one).
So all in all, London is right up there on my list of favourite cities, despite its days of not so wonderful weather.

No comments:

Post a Comment