Did you by chance – or design – read the post from a day or so ago; Thom’s ode to London. If not you should because it is a fantastic way of looking at the city and because I want to a snippet from my experience 44 years ago.
One day in the staff room, after everyone knew we were heading off to Europe on the obligatory trip to London that was, at that time, almost compulsory for young Australians the Art teacher said to me, “When you get to England give London a second chance.” I had no idea what this meant.
Another member of staff was a fellow from Stockton-on-Tees, Country Durham, North East England; Mick. Mick was going home to see his mum for Christmas. He suggested we get the same flight and he might be able to show us a few short cuts. We did, and he did. In fact he was very helpful as we had an eight month old baby with us and Mick’s help was invaluable.
He walked us through Heathrow, got us into London and found us a room in Sussex Gardens, just off the Edgware Road. Then, with wife and baby ensconced in bed, he took me and showed me how to work the Underground. Mick was to get the train from King’s Cross to the North and it was as good a chance as I had to learn.
But now for a tale about London.
There was once a little boy who would not sleep. He was only eight months old and his mummy wasn’t very well at the time so I suppose that his sleeplessness was only to be expected. It was very late – actually it was early December and the sun had set at about three in the afternoon and it was only just past a hot Australian summer. So the daddy, being caring and thoughtful, decided to take the baby for a walk and let mummy have a sleep.
All rugged up, Daddy and child walked out into the London darkness, and set off up the Edgware Road to Edgware Station and purchased a ticket for Baker Street, the next stop.
Down the steps we go! Onto the train. But we don’t get off at Baker Street. We were on the Circle line and that was quite some magic. No. The Circle line goes round and round. We stop and go, stop and go. Next stop is King’s Cross but we don’t get off at King’s Cross. No. Off to Liverpool Street. Monument and the Embankment and on to St James Park and Victoria. Sloane Square and Nottinghill Gate and Paddington. And look baby boy, here we are back at Edgware Road. But we don’t get off here. Not this time.
And round we go again.
And in a midnight London Underground warmth of humanity we sat. Father and son. And the little boy had stopped crying and was sitting up looking at all the Midnight London Underground passengers. And he smiled a big eight month old smile and a big, black, Rastafarian Jamaican in a big, black, Astrakhan coat held out his huge big hands and said, “Give that sweet li’l baby boy to me, man.”
And I gave that sweet li’l baby son to that big, black Rasta man and he bounced that li’l baby boy on his knee all the way from Euston Station to Westminster. And then that big Rasta Jamaican man he gave that li’l baby boy to some lovely lady who bounced him all the way from Westminster to Great Portland Street.
And we all laughed and laughed and bounced that little baby boy on our knees for almost an hour as we went round and round on the Circle line.
And finally, after our big London Underground Circle Line adventure we get off at Edgware Road Station where we had started and made our warm way home to Sussex Gardens and that little baby boy was asleep.
I had been round all of London and not seen a bit. But I knew I didn’t need to give London a second chance. I loved it right then and there.