Tag Archives: LDN

My London

My heart is literally breaking over what is happening in my city. I love London unequivocally. I have seen other cities and I have experienced other cultures, some very different from my own, but I can say without a doubt that my heart is most at peace when I am walking the streets of London. The air here is different. The rhythm of the city beating its own distinct pulse through the buildings, along the river, and out through every street laid out due to necessity not the order of later cities learnt from our example.

The events of the past few days both sadden and anger me. Some are saying that it is the disenfranchisement of our youth that is causing them to act out in this way. Council services have been cut so they do not have anything to occupy their time with and the economic situation for them is bleak. I understand that, part of me even agrees with it. If there is no promise of a brighter future then, why not take what you want when it is there for the taking? Why work hard to earn enough for the latest high-tech gadgetry when throwing a chair through the window of Dixons and running off with all you can carry will have the same affect? Why? Because we are supposed to be better than that, that’s why.

When life gets hard we are not supposed to use it as an excuse to run around lawlessly destroying our own communities. We are not supposed to make our neighbours fear for their own safety. We are not supposed to destroy the homes and livelihoods we have spent so long and worked so hard to create. The disenfranchised youth with monetary incentives to stay in school and free travel; these are the people running around causing mayhem as they take pictures with their i-phones and Blackberrys.

On a day with blue skies and white clouds most Londoners would be out enjoying this momentary glimpse of summer. Instead, most are constantly refreshing their computer screens for an update on what the current situation is in the city. We are on tenterhooks waiting to hear what is happening around London. And I, like so many, have a heavy heart inside my chest as I see the actions of few, reeking havoc across the city that I love. It aches at the scenes plastered across newspapers and television screens as the world watches Londoners tearing London apart.

And what can we do? In the aftermath those that can have done what I knew Londoners would do, they have taken up their brooms and bin bags and are helping with the clear up. Others waiting until it is safe so they can go in and help clear away the broken pieces and help mend the broken lives of those affected, but what of the looters? Whilst the police and the politicians decide what action to take stories come in of people taking up saucepans and bats, whatever they can, to defend whatever they have left. Elderly people determined that they will not live in fear in their own city. This is the true face of London.

The looters are nothing but opportunistic scum. They have brazenly walked through our communities and neighbourhoods, along our high streets, and declared themselves above the law. This has nothign to do with what happened to Mark Duggan and the police shooting. This is about nothing more than causing as much damage as possible, to hell with who gets hurt. I hope each and every one of them gets caught and are punished accordingly. Raise my taxes to lock them up; right now I do not care. They have tried to destroy my city; they do not deserve to be a part of it.

All across London everyone I know is bracing themselves for another night of looting. Stores have shut early, shutters pulled all the way down and some are even boarded up. People have put their cars in garages. All plans have been cancelled. As we set in for the fourth night of possible unrest the 16,000 strong police force out on the streets brace themselves too. We wait for the sun to set and pray that tonight we are spared a repeat of the previous nights. Every Londoner listening out for the sirens and helicopters. Every Londoner looking on in disgust at the ones we have disowned. Every Londoner hoping that this madness is over and that their city can be returned to them.

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Open Eyes

I am in love with my city. I think that’s an important thing to be when you’ve chosen to make a place your home. I understand that a lot of people are where they are because of work, or because of family, or simply because they’ve never thought of being anywhere else. For me though, being a Londoner is a choice. Yes it is where I work and where my immediate family (and chosen family) reside, but I have thought about living other places too.

When I was younger there was always the thought that I could go and live in the Philippines. I’d spent a fair amount of my childhood there, and it’s where almost all of my family are. My last trip there though confirmed that though I could probably spend an extended amount of time there I wouldn’t choose to live there. On that side of the world, Cambodia too. I love Siem Reap. At first I dismissed the commercialism of it all, but once I got past that I found a city more different than any I’d ever been to. But again, an extended amount of time possibly, but not a lifetime.

There are the US cities of course. San Francisco, if I were to live anywhere on the West Coast then it would be there. I’ve learnt to live with the fog and the rapid change in weather and I know almost all the good places to find food – always important. Hawaii, the whole state is somewhere I would gladly be. I can’t imagine ever having to earn a living there though, it would just feel wrong. It is perhaps though one of the few places I can go to truly just chill. Always, New York. If you’d believe my friends then this city is still on the cards for me. Who knows? Perhaps one day. It is a place where I am able to be. For now, London is home.

I try not to take my city fore-granted. I used to spend many days just me and my city. Walking her streets and taking time to look at all the hidden secrets that go unnoticed. Lately I find myself with less time to spend so much time with her. Other demands mean I have become neglectful. These past few months though I have taken the time to reacquaint myself with my oldest of friends, and I am reminded of why I love my city.

One of the main reasons I have remembered to really look at my city is The Elephant Parade that has come to London, and will sadly be leaving in a few weeks once all of the elephants have been auctioned off. These beautiful sculptures, set amongst London’s streets to add some colour and adventure to our lives are there to remind us of the plight of the Asian Elephant. Most of us, fortunately, do not face the fear of extinction in our homes, they do.

I, like many other LDNers, set about “hunting” these beautiful creatures, and in doing so I have discovered and rediscovered parts of my city. The walks I take are well-trodden, they have become some of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon so when I do have the time they are where I go. My hunt has made me go to parts of the city that I have never ventured into. I have walked the same path as merchant bankers through Bank and The Royal Stock Exchange. I rediscovered a market that I haven’t been to since I was 14yrs old and on a school trip. I went to where the Mayor lives and I have found hidden patches of green when I thought I knew almost all of London’s green spaces. I have come to know my city again, and all because my hunt for these elephants have taken me down roads and side-streets I had never thought to explore.

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“Your library is your portrait.” – Holbrook Jackson

Apart from a cinema, a library is my one pre-requisite for that house I’ve had an architect in the back of my mind designing for at least the last 20yrs. Floor to ceiling shelves across every wall, and a spiral staircases leading to the upper level. That, or one of those ladders on wheels that you can pull along the shelves. There’ll be a desk where words are written with actual pen and paper, and I’ll also do my colouring here. I think perhaps mahogany, deep rich wood. It’s going to be oustanding.

For someone who has a reading pattern that waxes as much as it wanes I do think a library is the most important building in a community. I think to put that much knowledge under one roof and give people access to it for free is the greatest idea humankind has ever had. Imagine. You want to know something, so you go to a library, look it up, find the book, you get to take it home, and you learn. It costs you nothing and all you need to access it is the desire to know more than you already do. Brilliant. This kind of innovative thinking is what will save humanity.

The architecture alone in some libraries around the world is amazing. I love the British Library, and the reading room at the British Museum…you just feel like you’re absorbing knowledge just standing there. The first time I was in New York and I’d managed to escape yet another shopping expedition I went straight to the NY Public Library and fell in love. Every time since I make sure I steal at the very least an hour to myself to sit on those steps between Patience and Fortitude and just watch the world. On my next visit I will have to visit the Brooklyn Public Library, which I’m told – albeit by a Brooklynite, is even better.

I re-joined my local library last year after a very long absence. There was some trepidation over a book I’d borrowed when I was a kid and lent to someone else who failed to return it. I was scared that after all this time my fine would be bigger than a mortgage. However, turns out they didn’t do a background check and they just let me join after producing my licence and I’ve been happily borrowing ever since. Woo hoo!

Now my library doesn’t have the greatest stock in books, particularly the kind of books I read; but then I’m a selective reader so most of the books I do read are ones I know I’ll fall in love with so owning them becomes necessary. I’ve been internet savvy for a long time and Google is my best friend so I know how to find things online with ease. However, there will always be a part of me that believes sitting at a desk with a pile of books in front of you as you take notes is the only real way to do research. I believe those late night sessions in the library as you try to finish your homework is a rite of passage that everyone should have. The resources may not be great but my library allows me to remember a time when people learnt things from books. Today I had cause to learn.

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My City

Today she looked so beautiful; I couldn’t help but take her picture…

NB. May be best viewed in miniature. I may have seen my city but the camera on the Crackberry isn’t the best for catching it. Apologies for the graniness of the images.

If she needed words…

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