Men wearing pearl necklaces. That’s the weird thing for today. I’m not talking Ian Thorpe necklaces either, but the full set. The two young blokes looked reasonably normal other than that.
Lots of Eastern European folk smoking, their guttural accents belying their origins. But London doesn’t feel like a healthy city. It exudes a sense of weary decay under its energetic exterior.
Not much time for sightseeing now, as I am busy with the course. Talking with an expert has given me a whole new perspective on our website, along with the knowledge of how the system works.
I try to squeeze in what little sightseeing I can. The shops along Oxford Street, where the course is being run, don’t open until 10am. The museums and galleries generally close for new visitors around 5:30pm, so there is not much opportunity to see more of those attractions.
Instead, I wander the streets, trying to get a feel for the city and its people. Try to get lost, following interesting paths, before finding my way back.
This morning I walked from Piccadilly Circus with its famous giant neon signs, up past Oxford Street, and into Fitzrovia. Hiding inside bland facades were trendy design studios with cool interiors. In the background, the BT Tower, no longer modern, its glass exterior stained with the grey sky.
What catches the eye are the small details. The stone friezes, the industrial black piping, narrow alleyways, iron, brick, wood, small gardens above buildings.
I then walk back across Oxford Street, to Soho Square, a pocket park of bright green trees centred by some building under repair and surrounded by a Catholic Church, a French Protestant Church and an exposed modern urinal. A statue of King Charles II stands in the park, his face seemingly once separated from the rest of him.
The rest of the day is taken up with electronic worlds, until it is time to reemerge into the wind and the rain. Oxford Street is dingy, packed with youth, tourists and chain stores. I want to explore elsewhere. Looking at the railway map I see that Notting Hill Gate is accessible from Oxford Circus, just down the road. From there I can easily return to Earls Court on the Tube.
I emerge out of the dingy Notting Hill Gate Station into an area near devoid of interest. I am hungry and there is nothing here. I know that I am not looking in the right place, but I need to return to my hotel room, to think over the things I’ve learned and prepare questions for the next day. So I return down the tunnel and catch a train to Earl’s Court.
Only this train detours away from Earl’s Court. Wrong line, but I find my mistake before it matters and change trains to the correct line at Gloucester Road Station.
The day stays light until after 9pm. I feel bad for not taking advantage of the light, but then, it is nice to go back and relax in the evenings. To sleep, then to wake up later to talk to B. To sleep once again. A relaxed evening is a rare experience for me, with such long commutes and a baby awaiting my return. Yet, I would rather be playing with my son at home and sharing the night with B. There is an emptiness that comes from not being able to share your discoveries or those of someone else.