Wander/lust – – (let me count the ways)
I’ve been busy recently with a couple of pretty exciting things and I feel like I’ve been walking all over London. I’m definitely not complaining about this – any excuse to just wander (above ground!) around this city is fine by me. I’m so used to running down into a station and jumping on the tube that my overground geography is all disconnected. It’s fun to walk from Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus or from Waterloo to Marble Arch and figure out where everything actually is.
(above: Piccadilly Circus, Rough Trade Records – Brick Lane, Street art in Hoxton)
I’m working with a theatre company (You Me Bum Bum Train) on their latest run of shows (painting, sanding and doing lots of heavy lifting) and I don’t think I’ve been this excited about something for a really long time. I can’t tell you any more about their show (I literally signed a legal document promising not to) but I can say that it is going to be insane. I’ve been heading down to the set whenever I have free time and spending my weekends running up and down flights of stairs with unwieldy objects, getting covered in purple paint (see below) and eating huge plates of rice and veg and potatoes with the cast and crew at lunchtime.
(above: This is after I washed my face!, Piccadilly Circus)
The set is in Soho, so I’ve been taking the opportunity to just wander around Piccadilly Circus, China Town and Leicester Square. At this time of the evening, after a long day, it is the perfect place to explore. There is so much to see – theatres lit up with neon lights and backlit billboards, tourists thronging through china town beneath the lanterns, colourful bubble tea shops, buskers, Eros (I will never forget the Christmas they put him in a giant inflatable ‘snow globe’) and of course all the back streets and alleyways and the maze of pubs and restaurants that leads to Madame JoJo’s (still a Soho institution despite it’s recent closure). I never want to head down to the tube straight away, so I normally let myself out of the stage door and then just follow the lights, go with the flow, or head to wherever looks most interesting. I honestly honestly wish that I could grab a few of these tourists, tell them to slow down, sack off the tourist stuff, and just take a walk through Soho – all of life is here.
I know I have a tendency to rave about London, even (or especially) the really shitty bits, but I guess I’m lucky in that everything in this city – even the walk home through a dodgy estate at 4am, or the alley where they keep the bins, or the graffiti’d doorways and vandalised street signs – is beautiful, to me.
(above: all Chinatown/Leicester Square area)
I remember about fifteen years ago I was driving somewhere with my parents and while we were stopped my Mum (who was and is an incredibly talented artist) began to sketch the view. It was a beautiful stretch of countryside, rolling hills, trees, all of that stuff, and right in front of us was a big field with a barbed wire fence. Leaning against the fence was a old bicycle tire, bent almost in half. I kept reminding my Mum to draw in the tire because I thought she had forgotten it was there, but then she explained to me that she was leaving it out deliberately, and that’s called ‘artistic license’. I wanted the bike tire to be in the picture, because it was beautiful to me.
That’s how I feel about London. I love the incredible architecture, the parks, the monuments, the theatres and the fancy hotels, but I’ll also take the alleyways, the garbage trucks, the rusty fire escapes and the bent bicycle tires – no artistic license required.