We followed the dawn across the English Channel. Below the wing the streets lay in all directions, lit up by dotted orange strands, and then golden reflections on windows and roofs as the sun crept over the waking city.
London from above – an urban tapestry with more green space than I’d expected.
A nice easy flight, half empty on the first leg out of Australia. Malaysian Airlines, 2014. Second leg, the long one, on a huge A380 Airbus, with plenty of legroom and a pretty big TV screen.
So we get to London, the city of empire and finance, feeling rested and if not exactly excited then anticipatory and expectant. All my younger life I’d heard about England and London, learnt “British History” at school, read Biggles and Robin Hood, Children of the New Forest and Westward Ho. We listened to test matches on crystal sets with tiny earphones, and I remember a teacher telling me the evening lasted for ever and kids played outside until 11 o’clock. In 1970 my two best friends boarded a ship at Station Pier and embarked for the statutory two years working in London which was then, still, the centre of the world for the Australian intelligentsia.
And now here we are, in the second decade of a new century, tourists in a foreign country which earlier generations called “home”.
We stay in Brixton, a lively multicultural suburb south of the Thames, known for riots and dubious housing estates. 218 Brixton Road, walking distance from two tube stations and a bus stop right outside, double decker red buses like in the films, heading up to Marble Arch or, on the other line, to the Elephant and Castle. Such British names. A nice little flat with flowers on the balcony and the living room looking onto the main street. Brixton Market, up the road under the railway viaduct, features fresh vegies, african dried fish, halal meat, funky coffee bars and flower stalls. We buy dinner there several nights running, to cook in our tiny kitchen.
I never came to live in London like so many other Australian expats, including many of my old friends, but now Robyn and I are living here, albeit very briefly, in a flat that anyone can imagine if they’ve seen an English movie or TV show from the last half century.
And the weather’s mild and the trees haven’t yet lost their leaves. Squirrels scamper across the little parks and squares in the quiet dusk time, black mothers walk their prams and bicycles rush past, but no one is playing cricket.
Read more about London the City, below . . .