After a week in the UK Capital – a bit of reflection. Many good things: Londoners are friendly and helpful! Years of living in Yorkshire and Spain had taught me the opposite, that in London it was dog-eat-dog, don’t make eye-contact, no-one will help you out, etc etc. In fact Londoners were wonderful, always friendly, joking, laughing, willing to tell you about the bus or train issue you were worrying about, having a joke in the shop or pub – we had a really good week! Prices are ridiculous, yes, but you can eat well ( pub food has really improved!) drink good wine and buy bottles at a reasonable cost from the supermarket. Reasonable cost means 200% the Spanish price, but I had expected worse! The Beer is wonderful – every pub now, it seems, has a good selection of Real Ale and there are more and more small breweries springing up, like Meantime in Greenwich. Hoppy, flavoursome and very, very English. ( can’t say British, I have no idea what happens up in Scotland). The Trains and buses are efficient and, for us anyway, run on time and take you where you want to go. Lewisham was a treasure – how good to be back among a really broad representaion of the peoples of our planet – black, brown and white faces, Caribbean and South Asian accents, street markets and shops offering Nigerian, Rumanian, Kosovan, Jamaican produce and foods. Wonderful!
The museums and galleries are either free or well priced and beautifully designed and presented. We paid to go into the Cutty Sark and had the most erudite and interesting casual chat from a museum guide. Ever heard of Catherine of Braganza? She introduced tea drinking to Britain in the 17th century and sounds to have been quite a lady ( as well as a Queen, of course) Also, the galleries and museums are receptive to school groups and workshops – in the Cutty Sark and in the Tate Modern there were teachers and young classes engaged in learning on the spot and working their own thing – wonderful to see little kids doing cut-and-paste and building a group puppet from paper and crayons in the Tate just lying around on the floor beneath the Dalis and Man Rays etc. So, London swings.
However, you just can’t live like that: too many people, too much pressure, too fast, too incomprehensible, impossible to know what’s going on,. always feeling like a little cork bobbing along in a flooded river… The human race made a big mistake when it opted to live in cities. The village, Sella is my model, is a viable and sane way to live. The city will always lead to corruption, alienation, big government and failed democracy. How can you even know what or who to vote for in such a big city when you aren’t even really sure how your dustbins get emptied or who your neighbours are? Small isn’t necessarily good, but it’s understandable and manageable: big is insane! One demonstration: in Sella when someone dies, the church bell rings a particular discordant two note chime, the Passing Bell. Everyone knows we’ve lost someone, phones ring, names are known, tears are shed – or not – and the event is made part of that day’s reality. In big cities, people die and it takes a month to discover their body, slowly decomposing behind their locked door.
So, thank you London – specially thank you Rosie and Cath for looking after us so well, and I’ll go again and enjoy it again – but it’s not the real world, it’s a monstruous Theme Park draped along a river and at its heart there’s a Circus called Westminster where someone has allowed the lunatics to take over.
The picture above is, or ought to be, me at the wheel of the Cutty Sark – a venue I recommend to any London visitor.