Banter from Blighty 2006 (Part 1) - London

Don't hate the player, hate the game

It's me innit!

London is magnificent and glorious, the city hemorrhages history. Walk amongst it, get your feet dirty, gawp at the architecture, drink in a twee pub, stare at the man in a pinstripe suit, lick a greasy spoon, follow jack the ripper, hell, even eat a kipper!

I can't believe I've been here 6 months already, London certainly does what it says on the packet, busy busy go go, all in the politest possible way, naturally, this is Britain after all. At first, my slow Irish ways were untouched by this sense of mild panic Londoners seems to carry around with them, but then I started taking the tube...

At rush hour tubes run every 2-3 mins, apparently this is not frequent enough, people tear down escalators leap frogging old people, skidding through the legs of visiting Germans, pouncing on the platform only to have the train doors b1tchslap them in the face as it pulls away. Walls are kicked, curses turn the air blue, a 2 min wait?! no chance, the tube map on the wall is scanned for some alternative hope, hhhmm how about the Victoria line, the penny drops as 5 billion people run like suited and booted cattle to another platform to shave 30 secs off their journey.

I'm working for an American crowd in Belgravia, loving the location, spitting distance from Sloane Sq and Knightsbridge, and a mere grenade throw away from Buckingham Palace (I'm kidding, I'm kidding). Belgravia displays a level of unapologetic outrageous wealth that most definitely has no parallel in Ireland. It's beautiful, but in my opinion lacks a real sense of soul, I can't imagine them throwing street parties with jellied eels and Dick Van Dyke running around bashing his symbols singing 'My old man's a dustman' (I've seen Eastenders, they're all at it).

I live in Islington, according to my 'Welcome to Islington' pack that my local council kindly sent me (along with a whopping council tax bill, don't even get me started on that, the poll tax riots will look like childsplay when I'm finished with them), Islington is one of the smallest of the 33 boroughs. In the 1960s it swallowed up the borough of Finsbury and thus inherited one of the historically poorest areas in all of London (if you're into Paul Weller, Finsbury Townhall features in his Wildwood video, boring but true).

Islington is quite mixed, council tower blocks roughly embrace delicate Georgian houses. Horsey faced Beatrice trots down the high street with her poodle in tow, while DJ Wotsit Innit and his hooded homies fall out of shops. It's a good mix and it keeps the place lively. In fact the majority of central Islington is a magnet for yuppies, Upper St is too cool for school with dozens of fancy shmancy restaurants, modern pubs with modern people, beautiful families living in beautiful well kept squares and houses.

Oh, and there's a canal, I love it, I get to walk past it every morning, flanked by a tree lined s(tory) book street, dotted with mercs and perks and manicured hands and gardens. Canal boats bop up and down, one shares my name, I look at it every morning and smile. Another thing that makes me smile is the endearing way people use small talk, I went into a local cornershop this morning and was greeted with... "Alright, my lovely, how can I help you, my darling"... a lot better than "Wha?". I also had to chuckle when I thanked the bus driver (not the done thing in London) to be answered with "That's alright my flower" :o)

Obviously I won't give you a breakdown on all my movements since moving here 6 months ago, so here's some highlights....
* Dining in The Oxo Tower and Nobu (not in the same night, my god, I'm not that decadent!), Nobu lives up to and way beyond the hype, the food literally is to die for (literally, sweetie darling). The Oxo Tower is pinch yourself perfect, you can't even begin to imagine the spectacular view (can't even begin)... ;o)
* Discovering London on foot (thanks to Dom's book of 50 walks), nothing brushes away the cobwebs like a windswept hike across Hampstead heath in gale force weather. Stumbling across what has to be Harry Potters Diagon Alley while traipsing across London's cobbled Inns of Law.
* Realising that my local greasy spoon is in fact Jamie Olivers '15' restaurant.
* My daily walk home from work through the Westend, hustle and bustle, luvvys and duckies, fabulous!
* Hampton Court palace, history history history, I can't get enough of it, also the added bonus of being driven there in Katrina's convertible.
* Bringing my visiting parents to mass in Farm St church in Mayfair, think Da Vinci code; mass in Latin, Gregorian chants, incense billowing around the church, magnificent stain glass windows lighting up hidden chapels.
* A trip to regal Tunbrigde Wells to visit relos, complete Miss Marple territory, believe it or not there was even a murder thrown in, the train station had been blocked off, and I overheard the flower seller tell someone on his mobile that a body had been found in a suitcase, I genuinely thought I was trapped in an episode of Mid Somer Murders when Inspector Morse and Bergerac got out of a Rolls!
* A trip to Leeds, Bronty country is breathtaking, and I will talk about that later
* Comedy clubs, heehee
* The Jack the Ripper walk, you have to read Patricia Cornwell's book on Jack, I'm 100% convinced the ripper was the famous painter Walter Sickert. The walk is excellent, you retrace the ripper’s steps, and end up in the Ten Bells pub on Commercial St where the ripper’s victims used to drink, the decor hasn't been changed in 100 years.

My celebrity spot...
Peter Stringfellow waddling down Old Compton St in Soho in a bright yellow shirt, rubbing his yellow belly, the man personifies bad taste, I couldn't suppress a huge grin :o)

It's a bank holiday here so I better get out there and enjoy the rest of the grey (oops I mean day).

Roll on summertime and summer weather.

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