It started innocently enough, as things often do. I took the Jubilee to (James) Bond Street, walked a few blocks on Oxford street, then spent a couple hours pondering photographs by Daido Moriyama at a Soho gallery. The more I looked the more I liked and I can't always say that.
I'd never heard of Moriyama but that does not mean anything. Most people I've not heard of.
Daido Moriyama exhibit
Lunch was a sandwich and double espresso at the gallery cafe.
Next I wandered Soho which I think stands for south of Houston but I can find no Houston in London. I'd marked several clothing stores on my map but unlike Covent Garden where my first clothing store visit left me with a nice pair of pants, never mind the price, my visit to Soho's clothing shops left my card unswiped.
Carnaby Street in Soho
Card swipes are everywhere in London. Buskers in the tube offer a 2£ swipe. Leaving the photo gallery there is a swipe for a 3£ donation. I find myself ignoring the £ sign and think every price is in Canadian or Euros. Of course it's not. Back at the apartment I think whoa that was pounds, so multiply by 1.68, and oh well, how often am I here in London shopping. That Hamilton ticket I just bought sounded reasonable for a box seat, but I was not thinking £s.
I am committing the cardinal sin of the high school chemistry student. Chemistry is math with units, I'd say to my students, and if the units are wrong the number is bunk. At times I am like them, a youngster. And other times I am like my father, worrying about things best not worried about, as all those worries dampen the mood and discourage doing something new. How come I don't revert to my late 20s, mature enough, brave enough, the whole world ahead.
Soho is not resonating with me perhaps because of the embarrassing memories of being the kid in class who tried to dress in Carnaby Street fashion—coloured shirts with contrast cuffs, remember those? It was an early sign that I couldn't read the room.
I'm thinking Covent Garden as my next destination today. So I walk awhile. But as I pass through Piccadilly its vibe inspires a change in my mood, from shopping to a walk along the Thames. I head southwest, down the mall, then left to skirt St James (nice ring, eh) park.
A large and loud helicopter has been hovering overhead for awhile.
As I walk towards the river I notice lots of people carrying banners. And growing numbers of police. Roadblocks are appearing. That helicopter whirs directly overhead. Then some loud booms. I have stumbled onto a demonstration. It will be in tomorrow's Guardian.
Mind you I am pro peaceful demonstration. I Acted Up in Boston. I took civil-disobedience training in D.C. I walked for women's right to choose. But I was tired and being immersed in a crowd in a strange place was unappealing.
I wanted to go to the Westminster station, to get on the Jubilee, but that seemed unwise as it meant heading into the crowd, so I went to St James station and bravely (that is no exaggeration) sardined myself into the Circle tube for the brief ride to, unfortunately, Westminster. A short conversation with a nice young woman to my right distracted me.
Once at the Westminster Jubilee platform I watched the sardined trains come and go, come and go, come and go, and the platform crowd grew and grew and yours truly abandoned hope of taking the tube and instead headed up and up and out to the street via the only exit not commandeered by the police to handle the mass of demonstrators who wanted to get on the tube.
The map said it was two plus hours to walk to West Hampstead. I can do that. It was that or taxi or an early dinner to wait out the crowds. So I headed north, maneuvered through the crowds of demonstrators and people like me who ignored the helicopter that maybe should have been a sign.
No harm done, I was going to exercise my legs and I knew that I always have an exit, a wallet of charge cards that can solve almost any problem, unlike the poor sods you see even here, hands out, curled in doorways with their sad companion dogs. I cannot complain about my long day out. I cannot complain as I do not live in a land where bombs and explosions and gunfire are daily hazards. I am in London where I can look at art and buy pants and eat what I want. I cannot complain because I was born lucky and lead a charmed life.
The walk north was uneventful. An occasional sprinkle as I passed up the block of Dior and Givency and Rolex, Bentleys and Lambos. One fashionable store has a queue to enter, to partake of shiny things. The map route then takes me down Oxford which offers the bus option, the 139 goes to West Hampstead though it makes 24 stops along the way. But after a wait at the BX stop in front of Sainsbury's I watch as the 139 doesn't stop, it being sardined inside.
So I walk, it gets dark, the sidewalks are good and almost empty by now, and I find I am into the whole look left look right mode necessitated when crossing in a land where cars are all backwards.