I was only there for three days, so in a way, it seems more appropriate to start out by listing the things I didn’t have time to do in London. I didn’t visit either of the Tates or the Wallace Collection. I didn’t find any Gilrays, Cruikshanks or Rowlandsons worth a damn. As for my plans for an Iain Sinclairish walking tour of the Hawksmoor churches, I didn’t even remember to think of that until I was on the train to Edinburgh. I didn’t see a palace, get out of Camden or Westminster, or really try to find a decent meal.
In spite of that, I had a wonderful time. I have never felt as home in any city as quickly as I did in London. When I got back I read Geoff Manaugh’s paean to L.A., and it somehow encapsulated the reverse of what it is that I like about London. Manaugh’s blackly comic vision of L.A. is that of an anti-city, an existential void: in which we are free, and if you don’t like it, don’t move here, is the gist. This is all very well, but it’s also a bit like one of those clever readings of a basically bad film. It’s disturbingly close to the way in which I came to terms with what I disliked about Sydney at the end of my teenage years, with a jury-rigged carapace of Ballard novels and Jeffrey Smart paintings, glued together with low expectations.
London doesn’t require any such contortions to justify itself: it is the most intelligible environment I have ever been in. I was expecting it to be exciting and half-familiar and enormous: I was not expecting it to be friendly, ridiculously easy to get around, and beautiful.
Accomodation: The Jesmond, remarkably good value for money in Gower St, Bloomsbury.
I didn’t take anywhere near enough photos in London – my camera’s battery ran out just as I got to the river at Westminster with sunlight breaking through the mist on the first jetlagged morning – but what I did take is here on Flickr.