Sunday, June 03, 2007

Heat in the jungle street

Back from a weekend visit to London, there to participate in the stag do of an old Exeter housemate. The best man has posted some photos of the event via Facebook.

Now, London is a city I love not. I don't dislike it, you understand, not in the way I dislike, say, Moscow: it's not a featureless, grey, concrete hell. But there's just too much of it. Many people would find this a wonderful thing - always more to see, always something new around the corner - and I can appreciate that, but on that scale I find it daunting. Vertiginous. I like to be able to pin a city down and understand it. Exeter was great for that - one main central street and a university campus, but you can still claim you live in a city because it has a cathedral. Bristol's probably as much city as I can handle - it's quite big, but it's manageable. London - too big.

Plus there are just too many people. Plus it's always city-hot and humid - all that industry concentrating all that heat in one place, and all those big, showy buildings holding it all in. And then there's the quality of the air - I always find when I visit London that at the end of the day I'm blowing soot into my handkerchief, and I'll usually spend the next day coughing the London back out of my lungs. But mainly it's the size of the place. Not that there aren't nice things to see and do. There are many nice things to see and do. I'm just glad not to live there.

But enough of this, what of the stag do? It can only be described as jolly mayhem. The best man and I nodding as the heavily accented Eastern European desk woman at the Earls Court YHA explained the house rules to us, then realising when we got to the top of the stairs and dropped our overnight bags that we hadn't taken in a word because I'd assumed he understood what she was saying, and he'd assumed I understood what she was saying, and we'd both just been nodding along out of politeness. The bawdiness at the restaurant, and the catchphrases for the evening evolving out of it in the way that they so often do. Each successive pub or bar closing on the hour, forcing us to roam the streets in search of another one that wouldn't charge us to get in, and each time being rudely ushered out by the crème de la sour crème of London's bar staff. Finding ourselves in a café at 2am, the passersby leering in at us. The incredibly slow voice of the night porter at the YHA who told the best man that he was "welcome here" (although sadly he didn't follow this up with "Enter, dungeoneer"). And Sunday morning, unwinding in Covent Garden, and one by one wandering off in search of our respective trains home.

To cap a fine weekend, "King Stag" and I whiled away the time waiting for our trains by strolling up and down Paddington, and outside a corner café we were treated to the peculiar sight of a large standard pipe resting unattended next to one of the tables. So I can say in all sincerity that I've seen a hookah standing on a street corner in London on a Sunday afternoon. Although I didn't stop for a quick suck.


Chris said...

Good summation of the whole 9 hour shebang and Sunday follow-up. The passers-by didn't leer... they were merely after a piece of me.

Best Man

John Toon said...

It is my contention, sir, that they assuredly would have. But they really shouldn't have.

John Toon said...

Can I also just say that your photos are the best, man.

In case you're wondering, the reason I spent an extra not-quite-an-hour in Pitsy's company at Londinium Paddingtonensis is that my stuffing train was cancelled. And this when I'd booked a specified-train-only-or-dieeee ticket. Fortunately in the event of their stuff-up they are prepared to waive the "dieeee" part.