Wednesday, 5 March 2014

have you seen the old man who walks the streets of london

You know London can make your brain stallThe streets get coldand empty on a rainy night, so you duckInto the subway station, you can hear the trains call, they wannaTake you to theEarl's Court Road but it don't seem right

Whenever I find myself in London I tend to be a creature of habit. I'll visit Denmark Street to poke around a few guitar shops, spend some time in Foyles and Fopp and most likely have a pint in the Dog and Duck. So it was rather pleasant to break the habits of a lifetime and do something different.

Having a few days on my own as Mrs Dave had gone to Germany to visit old friends, I found myself wandering the streets of London alone. First stop, the British Library to peruse the Georgian Exhibition. I've always tended to think of the Victorians as being the biggest influence on Modern Britain but it would seem that we owe a lot to the Georgians. It would certainly seem that much that we don't like about the modern world we owe to them. The consumerist culture and economic booms and busts were typical of the era. As much as I enjoyed wandering through the exhibition, I was a day too early for the Beautiful Science exhibition. Ah well, never mind.

I also went to the Natural History Museum to visit the Darwin Centre Cocoon which is well worth going to - try going at a different time to the half term break. There were far too many screaming kids even an hour before closing time. At least I managed to get in to see the large mammals without too much hassle as most people were still queuing up to shuffle past the dinosaurs. The whales and sharks remind me of Kathleen Jamie's essay in Sightlines about the Hvalsalen Natural History Museum in Bergen. I know the blue whale is only a model but it does tend to make you realise how small we are really. I can't say that we're insignificant because, as Jamie points out, most of the creatures there met violent ends at the hands of mankind. In the altruistic need of our forefathers to educate us about the natural wonders of the World, they left a lot of destruction in their wake.

I wandered back to the tiny basement I was staying in at Earl's Court to listen to the underground trains passing and decide what to do next. I couldn't swing a cat in there as it was far too small but I could have gone to the Troubadour to see a blues band I'd never heard of or go to the Half Moon in Putney to see Andy White. Somewhere upstairs in my extensive pile of vinyl albums is his debut album from 1986 (Rave On Andy White) but I was getting hungry and a tenner and a few journeys on the tube meant I would have to stay and I was already feeling shattered. I like the Half Moon and I've had occasion to enjoy the Home Service and Richard Thompson there back in the day. Well, last century to be precise. I decided to Google Middle Eastern restaurants in Earl's Court and it threw up a corker. The Orjowan was just around the corner and had some excellent reviews. No contest, so off I went. The best smokey aubergine dip - Moutabal - I've ever had and I love the type of flatbreads they serve. A glass of genuine Lebanese beer and one of red wine alongside a mixed grill later and I was rather full. I decided to have a little walk through the streets of Earl's Court and came upon a not very wonderful Fuller's pub but, hey, it was Fullers - a pint of the pride of London later and I was back in my basement room with my needle and spoon tv remote and glass of wine.

Before I set off for the city I'd tried to blag a ticket from a friend's relative to go to the Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Albert Hall but to no avail. I ended up watching it all on the red button tv service. It was great to watch but I'm afraid that bloke out of Bellowhead really can't sing very well. Perhaps I should have tried my luck in the clubs after all - Shane MacGowan, bloke from Bellowhead, Bob Dylan and me.

On Thursday, it was supposed to rain all day in London according to my BBC Weather App, which is quite accurate normally. However, in the words of George Formby, it turned out nice again. I went to the cafe at Southwark Cathedral to sit amongst the Christians and have a cup of coffee and then wandered around the Borough Market. By the time I'd walked down to my rendezvous with soem Gothic films at the Mediatheque at the BFI the sun was bright and it didn't seem like Winter at all. A couple of hours researching the Gothic - a great documentary by Christopher Frayling on The Hound of the Baskervilles and some mid-70s kid's programmes - soon made me hungry. So back to the Borough Market. As I passed the Tate Modern I wondered whether or not to go in to the Richard Hamilton exhibition but my stomach was complaining by now. By the time I got back to the market I was starving and the Indian street food on offer looked too good to miss. The Moong Dal Dosa I had was prepared in front of me - it seemed to involve rather a lot of chick peas: spread out and cooked like a flatbread, some mashed ones fried for the filling, all served on a bed of rice, onion and coriander. Gorgeous. I sat in the grounds of the Cathedral and munched my way through it ravenously. I'm sure the gargoyles were salivating above me.

I must admit that I didn't realise how close Southwark is to Liverpool Street Station. I crossed the London Bridge as I felt a little thirsty by now and I fancied a pint of London's finest and found myself five minutes from the station. As I was originally planning to go home after the peak hour and this was just before the peak hour, I decided I might as well get on a train. After a pint, of course.

So, a few days wandering about London hardly talking to a soul but enjoying my own company made me feel like a teenager again. At least I got beyond the bar at the station. But that's another story from those bad old days . . .



Kate the State said...

I liked the "Dead Flowers" reference! Sounds like you had a great day. Sometimes spending a day alone is really good for the soul. It's like Neil Young said (sang) "I need a crowd of people, but I can't face them day-to-day".

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Katie,

Yes, there is sometimes a need to stand apart from the pack but we none of us can really stand apart for that long. Perhaps in this day and age of constant contact, such moments are rare and fleeting.

Have a good week.