Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When you're tired of London....

The Motley Fool moved office in 2004 from near Regent's Park to the more funky and central Kingly Street, on the Soho fringes between revitalised Carnaby Street and the retail opulence of Regent Street.
Since then I've walked to and from Waterloo station most days. Now it's rare that I submit myself to the sweaty claustrophobic confines of the tube: life and fitness have both improved a notch or two, although pavement pounding is not great for the joints as they prepare for the Kili assault in February next year.
It takes me a leisurely 30 minutes each way...or a more focused and knee-pummeling 25 minutes if I'm after a fast start in the office.
In between I savour the sights, smells and sounds of iconic images of our capital city:
  • the concrete jungle of the South Bank Centre complex, currently under wraps and in the middle of a huge makeover at a cost of gazillions of taxpayers' money. Smacks a bit to me of a lady of a certain age trying to resurrect past glories under the surgeon's knife...but we'll see. How does the saying go? You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear

  • the London Eye, a successful contemporary addition to the grey Thames skyline but at odds with the adjacent grandeur of County Hall, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It looks like a slow-running hairdryer for Gulliver

  • the twin Hungerford Millennium bridges, spanning the great river between the South Bank concrete slabs and the fume-filled Embankment. Superbly designed, they are things of modern beauty and an oasis of calm amidst the city hubbub. Pause awhile and glance east and west to see the meandering magnificence of the Thames, snaking its languid way through the metropolis. The rigid metal support cables of the bridges stand taut and proud, meeting their colleagues to make a point, like a guard of honour at a posh wedding

  • Trafalgar Square. Another tranquil spot plonked in the middle of modern mayhem. Nelson is watched over by four supine kings of the urban jungle. I love the Square in the early morning, tourist-free and pigeon-less, the wader-clad cleaner hosing away the detritus of the previous night and netting the coin collection from the dormant fountains before they start up another performance

  • on to Leicester Square after sneaking through the narrow passage by the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery that becomes a skateboarder's clattering hip-hop heaven later in the day. To me Leicester Square has become a tawdry neon-lit sleaze-pit, denigrated by opportunists, drug-crazed dregs of contemporary life and occasionally out of context funfairs. Ugh

  • Chinatown's distinctive smells seep from the pores of every building and pavement, offputting in the otherwise freshness of a new day. A glance through the emaciated ducks dangling in the grease-caked windows reveals an Oriental face slurping a bowl of breakfast noodles

  • in Shaftesbury Avenue theatreland's steps are often awash with bubblegum-smelling disinfectant, sluicing down late night bodily functions disgorged long after the final curtain has dropped. Affluent visitors may have returned to the cosy confines of 5* hotels and sedate suburbia, but more desperate people roam the city's streets until dawn and this is their convenience

  • Soho in early morning is interestingly normal. Kids are tugged down Brewer Street by their impatient Mums on the way to the 9:00 curfew in Little Windmill Street; the fruit and veg hawkers swap banter amongst the beans and bananas in the ageing Berwick Street market; office workers grab a caffeine fix in the ever-expanding empires of Nero, Starbuck and Pret

  • Golden Square is a hidden Soho gem, tucked discreetly away from its more boisterous street cousins. Affluent media business brass plates surround it, office workers and bike couriers chill out in it and, best of all, the sculpted oversized man dozes in it, knees bent and head resting on a folded sweater, looking upwards into a shaft of London sky between the grey buildings

  • and finally to Kingly Street, festooned with delivery vans weaving their way towards the back doors of Regent Street's retail bazaars. The narrow pavement is crumbling with the constant infringements, but it's a dark and interesting thoroughfare crammed with dodgy bars, original restaurants and guilt-inducing gyms

Not a bad way to train for Kili, eh? On the level and no altitude challenge, but a small and regular piece of exercise...and with the backdrop of one of the world's great cities to savour every day.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life

Samuel Johnson


Post a Comment

<< Home