We’re in London this week, for the annual “Transportation and Public Health Link” conference.
We went out twice. The first time because of the gulf between our flight landing at Heathrow and our hotel in Shepherd’s Bush having a room ready for us. The second time because we had finally slept and showered enough to feel human again. We found energy we did not know we had to go bask in the clothes we wore yesterday in the sunlit splendor of Kensington Gardens and put a giant “Check” next to the British Fish and Chips goal I’ve had for decades. The bus was a great and affordable aid to our touring, but we found Bayswater Street so diverse that we decided to walk most of the way back to the hotel. Then our sleep-addled brains said we should get back on the bus and sightsee from the from of the top floor until it turned around at Piccadilly Circus. This would have worked out great if:
- We had slept on the flight (more melatonin next time, hopefully no coma)
- The day was cloudy
- The glassed-in front of a double-decker bus was not an excellent greenhouse.
So after our nap we got back on the bus going the other was, having burned sufficient time without getting pickpocketed for them to get our room sorted.
Know how a thing works or what it is for helps greatly in knowing what to do with a place. London reads as a city, so I treat it as a city. I expect things like signs, traffic and places to sit down and spend money. Most places in the world are not this, and this would nor be recognizable or usable if I didn’t know from prior experience what these things are for.
Of course, I am blind to the hundreds of social idioms that pervade here. As a city, people expect anonymity and are not horrified by my dozens of daily sins. I do my part by moving humbly.
I’m wiring this on the morning of the Fourth of July, an especially sweet time for an American in London. I thank our ancestors for working all this out centuries ago, because the time here has been seamless. My worldly grandmother had me in a terror last time I came here, and I would surely be wearing my passport around my neck in the lobby of this hotel if hers were the only lessons I had learned about travel.
I wrote most of this on the morning of the Fourth of July, but it is now July 6th. That day, we met friends and family in three different sorts of places. A phenomenal intersection, considering I had not seen the friend in about 30 years. Seeing her with her husband and child was sweet, as all the old history and drama of the most hormonal times of our lives was simply irrelevant now. It was great to see her again, but would we welcome each other without years of conversations on facebook?
We’ve walked a great deal these past couple of day, and tendons and muscles I was not aware of are hollering at me. I don’t think most Londoners walk this much. It is both very easy to walk in a city like London or New York, with ever-changing things to see or do, and very hard, with little shade and hard pavement everywhere. I’m sure walking in dirt, mud, or even brick would be slower going. I am sure I wouldn’t even bother with the former two. Tourism, like traffic, required pavement to really succeed. The challenge is to have all that access without all that hard surface.
Mind the Gap