Note from afar 4: funny old town, London


Ten days in London so far. Feels like longer.

Often, it hardly feels like being in another country. It’s not really foreign, just a bit different on the surface. It is more like my idea of Rome than I expected, in the sense of there being ridiculous amounts of old ornate buildings all over the place. The kind of stuff which in NZ would be like a big amazing building, kind of an attraction, here is just one of a dozen in the neighbourhood. There are very few skyscrapers. Most of the city is 6 storeys tall, but not much above that.

London turned on the grey and wet in midsummer. Very much like a Wellington winter, without the wind. The grey adds to the impersonality; a place that can definitely grind you down. There seems to be a taboo against looking at people or interacting; not just on the tube but in general, millions of people tuning each other out.

Weather aside, London is kind of amazing. It is huge and busy. There is so much going on here that it is impossible to keep track of. Crazy amounts of free culture, museums, art galleries; and if you have the money, theatre, and music, and other stuff. It would be easy to spend time here, especially once integrated into the culture, connected to the flows of happenings. Just walk around a corner in the city centre and something kind of epic is going on.

A true world centre of culture. I am conscious of coming from the periphery of empire, where access to the fruits of culture is limited, and precious. In a way it seems wasted on the people here; it is like they have seen everything and none of it means anything to them. Hard to justify, given I have actually interacted with so few actual English people, but yeah, the sense is there, attitudes overheard.

In ten days I have now run into two kiwis that I did not know were in the UK; I had heard this happened but didn’t quite believe it. The first one took a week.

Just saw possibly the weirdest gig of my life. Two hours of Godspeed You Black Emperor, then a silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, with a live score, then a chunk of Swans, then Alan Moore doing spoken word with accompaniment from a guy from Sunn O))), then a bit of Grinderman, then Portishead. Then ran a mile or so to get the last tube, well, the last tube that was halfway useful to me, and made it by about ten seconds, and caromed home.

Specifics, in brief: St Pauls was filled with more memorials to fallen soldiers than religious iconography. Camden is indeed kinda cool. Soho seems fun. I have wandered around Jack the Ripper murder sites, kind of incidentally rather than by design, passing by a lamppost where intestines were once hung. There are obelisks and crazy churches as promised by Moore. Council flats do look a bit shit. The tube is amazing and awful simultaneously.

The place is much more than can be typed in one post by a tired moose.

I will move on soon. It has been fun but already I feel myself growing stagnant. This is not quite travel, more a lull, or a pause, before heading back into the breach and dealing with survival in an alien environment. It would be easy to spend a lot of time being distracted here without really achieving anything.



3 Responses to “Note from afar 4: funny old town, London”

  1.   Tatjna
    July 25th, 2011 | 2:07 pm

    Random thing – got recognised in an elevator today by someone who’d seen “Billy’s documentary about Kiwiburn.”

    We are world famous in New Zealand.

    Also, yay!

  2. July 25th, 2011 | 9:21 pm

    Sweet gig

    Have fun, time traveller!

    See you in Shangri-La

  3.   Rich
    August 1st, 2011 | 9:44 pm

    Great stuff 🙂