Day Three: Saturday 6 August
While making breakfast I put on XFM and recoil at a sound so stomach-turning it can only be Coldplay’s new single. The lights may guide me home, Chris, but will they guide me to the pukebucket? I overcome this bad start by fleeing to Radio One, which is playing the far superior sounds of Atomic Kitten. Feeling whole again, I head out for the day.
I walk for the next 5 hours. This is the way I have always loved exploring London, not in walks from the nearest tube station to a desired destination, but in walks which span several tube stations in total, and enter none.
Temple, Blackfriars, Monument. The City is deserted and beautiful on a Saturday. I remember other Saturdays spent walking here. A nine-hour ramble with Russ, starting with lunch at Brick Lane, and walking through the City, along the Thames, through the Strand, to Chinatown for dinner at 10.30, and finally home to Fitzrovia. An hour with Alec in torrential rain when the skies opened as we walked to Borough Market. Newly and giddily in love, we were too stubborn to let the weather spoil our plans for the day.
St Dunstan’s In The East is a stone’s throw from where Alec used to work. Wren did this one too, but unlike St Paul’s it sustained severe damage during the war and only the walls remained. Since then the tower has been restored, and climbing plants tumble over and through the walls encircling this tiny, wonderful park. One of my favourite places in London, and the world.
I skip St Paul’s, the Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern because they’re the bits I know best, and explore the bits I don’t know. This poster outside the Britain At War museum endears me immensely.
I snap little things that catch my eye without being able to figure out why they do.
Beer cans on a bench, sickly and incongruous in Saturday morning sun.
A lighting fixture on a wall makes me think of bunnies.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Earth From The Air photographs are on exhibition between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, accompanied by this huge map of the world for people to wander on.
Kids have lots of fun with the map too.
Though it gets a little tiring for some.
One of the photographs against the glass facade of the building behind it.
Children playing outside the Greater London Authority building. It’s a good day for someone who likes photographing kids and reflections of sky.
It is at this point that I decide it’s time to get myself to Regent’s Park so I can do exactly the same thing as the people on the bench, except on grass, and with music, and smoothies, and thousands of other happy people.
Welcome to Fruitstock, a master-stroke of marketing from the people at the Innocent smoothies company. London gets a free music festival, various worthy causes get to promote themselves to the thousands of people who come, and Innocent sell loads of smoothies (and give loads of free samples away too).
John has come from Cambridge just to meet me. Russ and Dave are here too, with lots of food. Soon after we settle down, Matt comes over and says hello. I find myself surrounded by friends on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at a free festival in the park. It doesn’t get much better than this.
I’d have taken the picture from the left side instead, but I didn’t want someone to jump on my back and shout giddy-up. Not that such a mistake would have been likely, given my height.
Fruitstock moments which quite possibly amuse only me:
John comes back empty-handed after going off in search of a smoothie. “You didn’t get a smoothie?” I inquire. “No, it was crowded and I couldn’t be arsed.” And joyfully, I crow, “Then it was a fruitless expedition!” As everyone else collapses onto the grass in agony, I sense John beginning to wonder if that train fare from Cambridge was well spent.
- Wandering around with John, we come across a booth promoting the “eglu” – a self-contained contraption you can put in your garden and rear chickens in. “Looks a bit cramped to spend their life in,” I remark. “These ones look quite happy though,” John observes. I am derisive – “Well of course they’re happy today, they’ve been taken to a nice festival innit?” John just looks at me.
When Nitin Sawhney’s beginning to get a bit boring, we decide dinner is beckoning, and that Chalk Farm will probably have better food options than the Great Portland Street dead zone. We are not drawn to The Engineer, a packed noisy gastropub, La Superba, which looks mediocre, or a pub serving Thai food. (Well actually, I veto that because I refuse to pay London prices for Thai food when I’m on such a short holiday.) Things are looking despondent before we see what looks like a normal pub in the distance, and our spirits lift. Upon arrival I realize it’s the pub where Alec, Matt and me once spent a very happy Sunday afternoon with jazz and pork scratchings. Things just go right for me in London, somehow. The day ends with huge lamb and mint burgers, and pints of Staropramen.