Why Not Sneeze?

I wandered around Holland Park and fell in love with the area, between Shepherds Bush and Notting Hill. All cute outdoor cafes, fancy meat shops and cheese shops and wine shops. And Two-Bedroom flats for 850,000 pounds. I want one. I kept expecting Jude Law to turn the corner, but if he did I didn’t spot him. I’m sure Elton John lives around here somewhere.

If someone could please explain this whole business of boroughs to me, I’d be most grateful. I was on and off the tube a hundred times today. I got off at Barbican and wandered. As the glass buildings and suits of the city fell behind me, I suddenly appeared in Borough of Islington. Round a few corners of dusty brick I and I had somehow apparated into the Borough of Finsbury. Round the corner yet again and I was in Islington. Then, mere steps later, Hackney. How does this happen? Where are the lines? I wish someone would go about with sidewalk chalk and draw little boxes around all these little villages so I know where I am.

I walked from Barbican up through Aldgate and Moorgate, Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Hoxton, towards Whitechapel. The buildings got crumblier, dustier, and made out of uglier brick as I walked. More graffitti and stickers and shoddy shoe shops; tattoo parlors and a few boutiques selling very overpriced vintage fashions appeared squashed between. It was a strange and lovely walk. The colours got muddier, the sky got greyer and somehow or another the skips now said Hackney on them, so I felt it was in my best interest to turn around and get sucked in to the giant art supply shop on Shoreditch High Street instead. Bummer. I ended up back in my room with a new sketchbook,  listening to a sax playing Christmas music floating in through my window, the sound of ambulances and the bobbies’ horses hooves clipping along not far behind.

I popped out again. This time to Southwark at about 7pm, headed for the Tate Modern and the Frost Festival running along the South Bank. The museum was absolutely fantastic. The giant entrance hall is currently occupied by three twirly silver slides running from levels 3, 4 and 5. People are shooting down them at an alarming rate, and falling promptly on their bottoms in the end. There were a limited number of free tickets for them and all booked up unfortunately. I would have liked to test one out myself.

The art collection is brilliant,I love modern art galleries anyway but this was something else. On the third floor, Jackson Pollock’s Summertime stares down Monet’s Water Lilies across the viewing space, and out the floor-to-ceiling window behind them perfectly framed, St. Paul’s rests against the night sky. And it’s all there, the actual pieces. No copies.

I wandered for ages and then went outside through the river entrance. Stalls were set up selling bags and jewels and munchies so I checked them out and tested some cinnamon  roasted nuts. I could not decide which ones I wanted so the delightful man sold me a mixture. I ambled happily down the bank, admiring the view of St. Paul’s straight across the Millennium Bridge and just kept walking, past restaurants, over cobbled lanes, under tunnels; watching the tour boats pass on the river beside me and listening to the trains rush into Charing Cross on the rail bridge over my head.

I eventually disappeared into London Bridge Station. Down a very long, very steep escalator, then another. Down more windy steps for the Jubilee Line. There is a glass and metal guard on the edge of the tracks that only opens when the train comes in and lines up. Its as though the train is traveling into a glass tube. Southwark is the same. I have no idea why. Maybe it has something to do with the water. I hadn’t really thought about it but as it happens, my train is about to go under the Thames…

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