Dragging myself into the city is always preceded by a bargaining process: do I really have to? What’s in it for me? Is it going to be worthwhile? Can I not postpone it or run my errands elsewhere?
I tend to have a very specific purpose for going into the city aside from meeting a friend. If I need something from a store or, as in today’s case, I really need to deposit a bunch of coins at the bank branch that actually has a coin machine for me to do so; I will drag myself into the city, especially when I’ve been putting it off.
And despite my hesitation it’s always worth it. Today in particular.
Whenever I go to Piccadilly Circus, I like to walk down to Trafalgar Square from there, on toward Jubilee Bridge, which I cross and then all the way to Waterloo Station. It’s a nice walk. It can be quite spectacular.
Summer in London, and indeed summer it is, is something to experience. It’s the only reason I am still here.
It’s hard going from Piccadilly Square via Leicester Square to Trafalgar Square. The amount of tourists on a sunny day like this is staggering. Never mind that it would be very much the same on a rainy day.
I’m used to the route, though, and know where to go with the minimal amount of people jams.
As you know, or at least should know, I’ve been around a bit. I’ve been to all major cities in Europe, Australia, the United States and to at least Bangkok in South East Asia. One thing has become quite apparent in seeing so many cities: Trafalgar Square is the centre of the universe.
It never disappoints.
At my first stop before going down into the actual square, I listened to a percussionist, who was accompanied by someone clad in traditional garb playing Scottish pipes. You wouldn’t believe that this duet would work, but believe me it did. It was amazing. Some random amateur dancers decided to jump into the circle and show of their skill. Applause all around.
I moved on down the central stair case right out front the National Gallery, where a large group of Turkish people living in London held up signs: Rise up Turkey Against the Oppression. London stands with you.
They proudly waved Turkish flag and broke out into song at one point.
I walked down the stairs towards another group of people forming a large circle filled with people sitting on yoga mats and blankets, Indian or Lotus style, and meditating. People would get up and leave, others would join. But all just sat there within the circle, eyes closed, breathing stillness.
On the other side of the square loud protesting was going on right in front of the South African High Commission building, which is just down from the St.-Martin-in-the-Fields Church. This time traditionally garbed African people holding up signs asking: DON’T KILL SOMALIANS.
The contrast was stark and amidst all of this two thousand tourists, street artists, and me taking it all in and taking notes. The sun blazing down uncaring.
Here is London’s Trafalgar Square, the Centre of the Universe. It’s not a normal day, if there isn’t at least one group of protesters and another group of… let’s call them hippies.
I walked on down toward Charing Cross, across the Jubilee Bridge and stopped at Southbank to look across the river and listen to a young woman singing: You give me fever. She had a pretty amazing voice.
And because it was such a beautiful day, she dedicated Jimmy Cliff’s “I can see clearly now” to her audience. It made me smile, so I gave her some of my leftover coins.
As I walked on she started talking about her own story. She came to London from Portugal and worked in a coffee shop, living in a room above it. And one day she came home to find that her amazing boss had stolen every single one of her possessions. For a while she’d been homeless and eventually she decided to make a living as a busker.
With a voice like hers it was the least she could and should have done.
She didn’t want to get herself beat down and from then on sang “Hit the road Jack” every day as well as right then and there, followed by Destiny’s Child “Survivor”.
I walked on and basically ran right into a group of naked cyclists on the way to Waterloo. Their nakedness perturbed me much less than the thought that cycling naked cannot possibly be comfortable. Never mind that some of them were using Boris’ Bikes and I didn’t think the next person would’ve liked to know that a naked bum had been sitting on that very same seat previously.
For as long as I continue to live in London, I shall keep my eyes open, never avert them and listen to the stories I hear on the way.