Lesson 12: The ever-changing city

It’s been, as ever, a busy few months in London. Royal weddings, massive protest marches, bomb scares and more. My blogging’s been inversely frequent, too – one thing I’ve found since moving to the capital is that free time is a hugely important premium. The fact that there are so many exciting and interesting things going on means it’s often daunting to work out how to spend your spare moments.

One familiar fallback for such difficult decisions is the good old pub. Alone for the weekend after the lady was out of town, I decided to pay my first visit to the CAMRA real ale pub of the year 2011 – a little unassuming-looking place in Covent Garden called The Harp.

Famous for its array of ales and sausages, it’s a small but perfectly-formed boozer. Prices were reasonable and the beer selection was impressive. But I digress – I’m not Time Out. I spent a pleasant few hours reading my book (more on this later) and being recommended drinks by the helpful bar staff.

I walked home just before midnight, thinking that a trip alongside London’s most famous landmarks would be an inspiring end to the evening. I passed Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, the Strand, the Mall, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and finally Big Ben himself. Crossing the river I heard the clock chime midnight and paused for a moment to just enjoy the moment. Thinking cheerfully to myself “I love living in London”, I proceeded across the bridge.

Upon reaching the other side I came upon a large group of what I took to be tourists, speaking with American accents. I got to the very end of the bridge and saw a bobbing row of heads, all in a line, at about the height of my hip. Looking at this strange arrangement as I walked past, I realised it was five or six of the American tourists – all girls wearing fancy-looking dresses. Before I had time to wonder what they were doing I noticed the dark, fast-moving streams of liquid rushing down the hill from where they squatted to where I was walking. As the nearest one to me crowed “I’M WINNING!” I realised they were all hitching their dresses up and pissing in a kind of drunken (I hope) race. Dodging the streams and unable to contain a “oh fuck, no”, I carried on walking home, shaking my head.

London’s never what it seems. You can spend hours wandering the streets in the City or the West End admiring its architecture, history and sense of authority. Step round one more corner, though, and you’ll find its beating heart, exposed in all its brutality, humanity, raucousness and, well, piss. I love it.

2 Responses to “Lesson 12: The ever-changing city”

  1. Rachel says:

    It is just a shame that they let Texans travel; they give the rest us, upstanding and soft spoken, Americans a bad name! I am going to call the other two upstanding Americans today and tell them what happened. ;-)

  2. world clock says:

    Lesson 12: The ever-changing city | Lessons Learned in London – just great!