This time last week I was in London. Went there a couple of Sundays back and returned last Sunday. Did four days' advertising and design work with an old chum who runs a thriving business at Butlers Wharf in the shadow of Tower Bridge (quadrangle.com). Didn't work on the Monday because it was a bank holiday so did a bit of pottering and shopping with Georgie in sunny Putney. Had the Saturday off too and visited John Lewis in Kingston with Georgie and Donnie in order to eye up Apple computery stuff that Georgie needs to buy in readiness for going freelance when she moves out here in July.
Even though I lived and worked in London for more years than I care to remember, it still comes as a big culture shock on those rare occasions when I visit the capital city. I used to take for granted the hustle and bustle, the flashy cars, the rampant consumerism, the high prices and the constant drive for success and wealth, but now I find the whole thing rather unreal and more than a bit vulgar. Maybe it's because I'm getting old, or maybe it's because I'm now a hermit recluse from the misty backwoods of rural France, or maybe it's because I'm not a Londoner (there's a song there somewhere). Whatever the reason, I now feel like an alien from a distant planet whenever I visit.
To get to my chum's offices I'd catch a train from Putney to Waterloo, passing loads of new buildings that have shot up along the south bank of the Thames. I presume some are offices and some are flats, but who can afford such places? The rents or purchase prices must be astronomical. At Waterloo I'd then catch a train from Waterloo East to London Bridge, with glimpses of even more buildings going up in the City. Recession? What recession? These architectural towers are testimony to the fact that London's booming while the rest of Britain boards up shops in streets strewn with tumbleweeds. Scary. Then, at London Bridge, I'd walk to Butlers Wharf passing even more flashy new office buildings, including those of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young among others. Clearly these companies are hugely successful, but what do they actually do? As far as I can make out, they're just accountancy firms. I presume their expertise lies in saving tax for big corporations and, by doing so, are major players in the money game. Call me an old hippy, but I feel these companies and their impressive tower blocks are built on far from solid foundations. Just as soon as the big money moves from London to Peking or somewhere else in the developing nations (as it surely will eventually - it's just a question of time), these houses of cards will come tumbling down. As I said, scary.
After work I'd amble back to London Bridge after sunset, but this time along the riverside with wonderful views of Tower Bridge and the City lit up with twinkling lights and their reflections in the dark waters of the Thames. Here I'd stop and become a tourist, taking out my camera and snapping sights that have been snapped millions of times before. Nay, au contraire; that City view is constantly changing as more and more buildings are constructed. The latest one looks like it's almost finished. Not sure what it is though. Maybe it's yet another rip-off bank HQ, or yet another accountancy giant making a loud statement of massive wealth. Ah well, whatever it is it looks rather pretty at sundown. Then it's onward to London Bridge station where I'm suddenly aware of a tall building stretching upwards towards the distant sky: The Shard. Once again I'm thinking what's it for, who's going to live there or work there? Beats me. Shaking my head in disbelief and incomprehension at what London's become, I stagger onwards and catch the train back to Putney. An alien in a foreign land indeed.
So that was London. On the Sunday I flew back to Limoges, rescued Jock from the jailhouse (kennels) and drove back home to the misty hills. I would have stayed longer in London and maybe visited sis and bro-in-law up north, but as it was the first time Jock has been in jail on his own (after Sprock's sad passing), I felt I had to get back quick as poss. Ah well, another time.
4 weeks ago