This is for Brenda, who emailed in response to Saturday’s article, writing that when she’d visited the UK (from Canada, I think she said) she hadn’t gotten very far from London.
So she enjoyed hearing about me getting soaked to the skin in the picturesque Cornish fishing village of Mevagissey, and checked the place out using Google’s Street View, wandering up and down the lanes as a virtual tourist. It was sunny, apparently.
If you’ve never tried this, Google has instructions on how to do it here. You’ll need the Google Maps app on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Apple devices probably have a similar function on their maps app, I wouldn’t know.
So anyway, we’re no longer in Cornwall. Having also been severely rained on in Falmouth (disappointing pasty) and Truro (impressive cream tea but terrible service), yesterday we drove back up the M5, on to the M4, where we had a final and delicious pasty from the West Cornwall Pasty Company, then east to London’s Heathrow airport.
We left our hire car at Enterprise Car Rental (good price, excellent service, general all-round hassle-free experience, will use them again, must remember to leave a nice review), then took London’s metro system’s Picadilly Line into the city, alighting as they say, and minding the gap, at Leicester Square station (prounced ‘Lester’).
From the platform there’s a long ‘moving stairway’ (escalator to us Brits) taking you up to almost-but-not-quite street level, where they have a circular concourse, crowded with people and with several staircases covering the last few metres to the various exits. It was here, my wife reminded me, that we met up for our first date, which would have been sometime around mid-April 1997. The evening was a success.
Outside the metro (London Underground, known as ‘the tube’), we got on a number 176 bus from stop J in Charing Cross Road, headed south to the famous Trafalgar Square (named after a naval battle England won) – which I missed because I was trying to figure out how much I’d paid by tapping my phone to the contactless reader – then along the Strand and across Waterloo Bridge. The details are so Brenda can follow along on Google, if she chooses to.
From the top deck of the bus (always go on the top deck, unless you have really cumbersome baggage), and for a fare of just a few dollars, you get fantastic views of the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, the South Bank and more. Plus you can look at your fellow passengers.
The bus heads towards Penge, which is probably very nice, but some of the places it passes on the way there are less so, though I can’t think of a better way to get the feel of what a city is really like.
After thirty minutes or so, we descended the stairs and got off the bus, as instructed by our daughter, who was there to meet us. She and her partner have recently moved to Peckham, a cycle ride from (or back up the 176 bus route to) the law school she started recently, near Waterloo Station (named for a battle England won).
So, at this point I have to confess to never having liked London, being a Devon boy and preferring smaller, quieter, cities which are easier to get around. Like Bologna, for instance. Other than having met an attractive Italian here, I have mixed memories of the four years I was a Londoner.
I wasn’t, therefore, expecting much from Peckham, though the houses in the street my daughter now lives are neat and clean (and very expensive), and the place was quiet enough on a Sunday afternoon.
We were taken for a walk (not raining!), which lead to gritty Peckham Rye, then down an alleyway past the apparently very good value Peckham Multiplex cinema, and up some brightly-painted concrete stair cases.
Picture a parking garage, what we Brits call a multi-storey car park. You drive in, up one ramp, then the next, then the next, until you find a space to leave your automobile. You lock it carefully, head towards the lift, which is broken and smells of urine anyway, then down the steps to level 0, and out into the city.
I remember a parking garage in New Orleans, and nervously driving a brand new Mercedes, which was kindly loaned to my daughter (the same one) and I by a student of our Italian school who lived in Dallas Texas.
We were taking a road trip, a present for her eighteenth birthday. Texas was her choice of destination, my presence being required to drive and pay. Scroll down our ‘Best of’ page until you get to 2017 to read more about that. Anyway, the view of the city and the Mississippi River from the parking garage far surpassed the depressing experience of trudging through the crowds thronging the French Quarter.
So, back in London, my wife and I are following the young people up the steep but brightly-painted steps of an inner-city parking garage behind a multiplex cinema.
Reaching the right level, we go through graffitied swing doors, past the elevator, and into, well, a parking garage. But one that’s been transformed into a place for people, rather than vehicles. The place is called Peckham Levels – I’m not linking to their website only because it isn’t very good and my description will be better.
So, we’re in a parking garage, right? But there’s a bar, places to eat (deep fried plantain), picnic tables (is that someone holding a kids’ birthday party?), couples on first dates, children playing games with their dads or just running around, and not an internal combustion engine in sight.
What a marvellous idea! But the best part was looking out of the windows, which weren’t exactly windows at all, but that space between the concrete wall that stops you driving into oblivion and the concrete floor of the next level up, now filled with perspex/plexiglass to keep the wind out and the warmth in.
The view was vast. Picture the London skyline, from west to east, a little Sunday afternoon sunshine, and a lot of cloud, the backdrop to jets circling the city in the holding pattern for Heathrow airport. Over there are all the iconic buildings that have been built in the quarter of a century since I’d lived here.
We sat down at a picnic table to chat and drink pints, which was fun. I took a couple of snaps with my smartphone, with a view to sharing them with you.
And then, as is the way of things when drinking pints, I needed to seek out the mens’ bathroom.
As club members are majority female, here’s a photo. Mind the slippery floor, ladies.
See there? At the end? The graffiti, and the posters advising how you should act if harassed by the cops?
Peer through the colored scrawls and you’ll see what, I am wagering, is the best view from any public convenience in Britain!
It’s not a great photo, and I zoomed in, of course, but it was truly remarkable.
Combined with the happy noises of children playing, and the reasonably-priced beer (student discount!), I decided I might quite like London, after all.
(What’s all this got to do with learning Italian? Absolutely nothing.)
Know of a public bathroom with a fantastic view?
Send me a photo and a brief description. Maybe we can do a photo montage or something.
Two conditions – the convenience in question has to be open to the public (so no law offices in skyscrapers, please), and you have to have the actual facilities visible in the image, to prove it’s a genuine bathroom view, as in my first shot.
There’s no prize, and if you send a pic it should be your own. I might publish it and would prefer not to be sued.
Did you read/listen to Saturday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
I haven’t, because I’m on holiday, so spending a lot of time driving, and being with family.
Nor have I done any of my usual listening practice activities (Swedish etc.)
But I’ll get back to it on the journey home.
Reading and listening practice are essential if you ever hope to truy ‘know’ a language, and the people who speak it.
Besides, as with EasyItalianNews.com, reading and listening practice is often FREE. So what’s to lose??
N.b. EasyItalianNews.com is funded by donations. Every couple of months they appeal for support, which they are doing this week, as a matter of fact.