Friday, 4 July 2008

UK: London Calling

I'm home now, a bit jetlagged, but I spent the last four days of my trip in the UK. More specifically, in London.

I've just been doing a rough count and I figure this was my seventh visit to the British capital (if you count a visit at each end of an overseas trip as effectively one).

They've been varied as to length, ranging from two months to 24 hours. Sometimes I've been there specifically to visit the city, sometimes in transit on my way to somewhere else. But those visits have always been memorable.

Here are some of my London highlights:
  • 1990: The first international trip my wife Narrelle Harris and I had taken together. One of the high points was seeing Charles Dance in Coriolanus for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre.
  • 1992: On my way to my first posting as a teacher of English as a foreign language, I cooled my heels with friends in Purley before leaving for Egypt. A memorable outing was to a horse race at Lingfield.
  • 1993: On a one-week break during our Egyptian posting, I learned that you really can lose your tolerance for alcohol when living in a low-alcohol country. We got hangovers from a single glass of red wine.
  • 1995: A 24 hour stopover on our way back home from teaching jobs in Poland. A fascinating journey on the Underground from Heathrow, listening to the complex saga of a guy whose family had sent him to Morocco amidst a family feud. Fascinating stuff, wanted to hand him my address to write and let me know how it worked out.
  • 2001: Just a few weeks after September 11, coincidentally, and the last time I would ever fly to Europe on a plane that wasn't completely full. I stayed with my brother John in 'edgy' Brixton, and finally realised 'edgy' meant 'cool but just a bit dangerous'.
  • 2007: After all these visits, I was finally in London in summer and could see a production at the reconstructed Globe Theatre. It was Othello, and at interval I gave up my gallery seat to stand up in the yard, leaning on the stage. Magic.
  • 2008: This year's highlight was going on a James Bond walk through Mayfair and St James, tracing elements of author Ian Fleming's life. It concluded with a visit to Dukes Hotel, and my joining the guide in a Vesper, the cocktail Fleming invented in Casino Royale. Expensive but superb.
All proof of Dr Johnston's dictum; so I've a feeling I'll be back.