Every so often we go to London to see the sights, catch a show and walk the streets of London. The best way to get to London is by train. Ever since I accidentally booked first class tickets years ago, we try to go by first class, dependent on what cheap deal we can get. However on this trip I’ve discovered that whilst first class is all very nice, it doesn’t stop you from getting travel sick. I spent at least half an hour with my head in my hands praying for London to come quickly. On the way back, as we were travelling by night, I didn’t get travel sick. My travel sickness is caused by visual movement in the peripheral vision, which makes me go green. Although above all things don’t take the bus to London – with its palpable threat of violence and torturous length it’s a level of hell I never want to experience again.
On this trip I was fed up of going up and down Tottenham Court Road, so headed into the West End down Gower Street. The buildings along the street are lovely and impressive. It’s very rare that I wish to be younger but going down Gower Street and passing by the buildings of UCL (University College of London) and RADA I just can’t help but think that being a student in London would be a wonderful thing. You can so understand why these places attract foreign students and other than New York where else would you want to study?On Gower Street there is a fantastic Waterstones with a branch of Fopp attached. I left Neil browsing the records in Fopp, whilst I explored Waterstones. Foyles on Charing Cross Road is the best bookshop ever, but this branch of Waterstones comes second. Academic bookshops are always more interesting than the standard ones as they have a wider range of stock.
We ate at Wagamama just off Gower Street. You can’t go wrong with Wagamama and this branch was no exception. I had firecracker chicken which was very spicy and Neil had to finish it off. For a long time in Manchester we always chose Tampopo over Wagamama, but Wagamama has improved its menu so we are back. It also helps that they don’t do great prawn starters – I’ve discovered I have a mild allergy to prawns, so I no longer can have coconut prawns from Tampopo. Believe me I was gutted when I found this out.Ed’s Easy Diner at Euston Station is always a place we have a bite to eat at. Neil likes the chili dog, whilst I always go for the burger. The food comes out when it’s ready, so your companion’s meal can come out before yours and your chips can come at the end of the meal. It’s a busy, bright and cheerful place - although the toilet doubles as the staff changing room.
We’ve drank in a number of pubs in London, but our favourite pub is the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. The beer is cheap for London and apparently it’s a favourite haunt for Doctor Who fans. I like the fact it’s always busy with students and office workers. It’s a proper local pub and a trip to London is never complete without a visit to this place. Even Neil likes it despite the fact it doesn’t have a jukebox or quiz machine.
One of the most disturbing things I found in London was the lack of women in their late 30s and over in the city. When I was wandering I just couldn’t help but notice the lack of women of this age. There are lots of younger women, but for whatever reason I found it hard to find these women except in groups in restaurants or in the theatre. It’s funny how spaces in a city can be differentiated by age and gender – Soho is very male, Covent Garden is more family orientated, Hampstead is older and female, and Camden is young. My feminist gene was getting rather disturbed by this phenomenon. Maybe it’s because I don’t give a damn and will go anywhere. It does help I’m tall and sturdily built with a determined look in my eye, which means I never get hassled. Although in supermarkets small people always ask me to get items off the top shelf for them.
Over the years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the place. A long time ago I had considered moving there, but there is something so hard about the place which goes against the grain of this Northerner’s soul. After this visit I’ve come to the conclusion the best way to live in London is either as a student or a multi-millionaire – you need either hope or money to survive this city. Otherwise the only way I will see this city is as a tourist and to be truthful I’m happy to keep it that way.