Friday, March 26, 2010

London Found (Part II, See Part I below)

As it goes, I wasn’t meant to find spring on Sunday. That evening, however, I did find an exceptionally good Thai restaurant near Canary Wharf. I ordered spring rolls with the provision that they were made with 100% rice flour. Sadly, there was wheat in the mix, so once again, spring eluded me.

The next day I didn’t have to be at the airport until one o’clock in the afternoon, so I decided to take one more walk around London. I got out of the Tube at Bank station with the intention of walking all the way to Leichester Square where I wanted to take some pictures for a friend. For the uninitiated, that’s quite a hike.

But it’s a thrilling one, especially when the sky (and cranes and bridges) is blue. Surely I would find spring on a March day like this.

Through traffic and throngs of Monday-morning suits, I headed for the Thames. If you’ve never walked the Thames Path, well, you should, for the simple reason that London is prettiest from this perspective. London, though I love her, can be an ugly sow. But not here along the Thames: the architecture, the history, the bridges. The London Eye . . . sore.

The first part of my walk was sunny, even—I dare to say—spring-like. I made it to the Tate Modern in about ten minutes where I took this photo of trees I would like to plant in my backyard. White bark. I like white bark.

A few metres further, the Thames path was diverted by construction. Let me stop here and establish a theme: construction, cranes, workmen. London is under construction. The entire city is spiffing itself up for the 2012 Olympic games. Spring might not have been in the air on Monday, but cranes certainly were . . . everywhere.

But then I discovered something marvelous. A gem. Right in the middle of London is this half acre of land devoted to the poor. Charles Hopton in 1730 left money in his will to provide housing for poor men and their families. These cottages still provide homes for the poor. Maybe this was the patch of spring I was looking for. Maybe. I hope.

The Charles Hopton Alms House, London
As I walked, continuing toward Leichester Square, the scenery started to stimulate my memory glands. The theme music to The Twilight Zone started when the National Theatre emerged on my left (in the picture below, you can see The London Eye rearing its ugly head behind it). And what a god-awful ugly building it is. What strange memories it brought back.

Flashback!
Fifteen years ago, I landed in London, dropped my bags at my youth hostel and headed to the National Theatre. I was in London and—gosh-darnit—I was gonna see me a play. I had, after all, just received a Master’s degree in English literature. I wasn’t here only to dance all night in trendy dance clubs.

The only thing playing that evening was a Tennessee Williams play. I can’t remember which one—the one about the lesbian boarding school teachers?—but I can remember that the characters were supposed to be southern. The accents were hysterically wrong: something like The Beverly Hillbillies meet Macbeth. I fell asleep and was awakened by someone long after the play had ended. I remember that I had no idea where, or who, I was.
Flashback over!

At the National Theatre, I took the footbridge across the Thames to Embankment and Charing Cross station. As you can see, blue skies weren't following me any longer. By the time I arrived at Leichester Square, the weather had turned windy and cold. On top of this, what I wanted to photograph was no longer there, so I started the long walk back to London Bridge where I would catch the train to the airport.

I walked back through the Victoria gardens, hoping to see tulips and daffodils and the tender green innocence of spring. Yes, there were beds of flowers, but they were unimpressive and certainly not mature enough to represent the bushy innocence I was searching for. At Temple station, the garden was in an appalling state. Embarrassing. Ugly. I think there were drug dealers amongst the unplanted flowerbeds. This was anti-spring. For a moment there I thought spring was lost.

But then . . .

I found . . .

spring . . .

incarcerated spring.

Oh, stop it, Chris. You’re not a poet.
Hmmm. But if I were, I’d put
spring behind bars
until it screamed for freedom.
Then I’d set it free
and watch it dance
and laugh
and burst with green.
I’d shout, “Dance, March, or I’ll
blow your bloody feet off!”

I’d be mean.
I’d be really mean,
but only because I’d
walked my own feet off
on my quest for spring.
And all I’d found was
Richard Quest
and skimpy tulip greens.
I wanted more . . .
BUT! I found London again
and I need to tell you that I love her!
Shh. We’re back together.
Invite us to dinner.

We’ll bring the Carménère.

I must be off,
Christopher