Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going back to my roots

So, how was it?

Not bad really.

Scotland, well I kinda missed it, spending most of my waking hours on the blue carpet. I did get to see a bit of Edinburgh one afternoon, which was nice, having spent some time there in the mid-90s when my brother was doing his MA. Otherwise I was cocooned on race-site. What was funny was that as the bike-course was right-handed (the same way we drive in Canada) and I spent 120kms on Moto2 on Sunday, I was thoroughly confused on Monday as to which side of the road was which!

That city World Dus were in is pronounced Ed-in-bra by the way, if I hear Ed-in-borrow one more time I'm going to hit someone.

I didn't go to Leeds this time. Ever since my mother used her own father's death to play family power politics, I figured there was nothing there for me now. I might have grown up there, but I think many of my formative experiences, the really instructive ones and the ones that really helped to shape the man I am today (like him or loathe him), happened elsewhere.

So elsewhere would be our destination.

London was always gong to be a different story as this is the city I self-identify with. I can see northern mill-towns when watching independent British films and the sight leaves me relatively unmoved. A shot of the London skyline, even the stereotypical St Pauls/Tower Bridge/Gherkin one, not so much.

30 St Mary Axe

And The Gherkin was built long after I left.

I got to see many of the places that were important to me; the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), where I did my co-op year (as you'd call it here) in the electrophysiology department...


As an aside, around the corner from NHNN (in fact between NHNN and GOS) is, to my sensibilities, this contradiction literally set in stone...

No visit to London is complete without a pilgrimage to Bloomsbury way, the place where I decked out hard and got those titanium screws in my head...

A re-creation of the nearly-fatal moment.

...this is just around the corner from the British Museum, my favourite spot to kill time in London; just grab yourself some time and be immersed in 4000 years of human history.

...and while in WC2 there is Condor Cycles on Grays Inn Road, with all the Tour of Britain leader's jerseys in the window.

After the "emotional" reunion with the road-surface on Bloomsbury Way, Condor meant yet more Ti, but that's another post.

Yup, that's a "Sale" tag; get me outta here, STAT!

Big Ben (or more correctly St Stephen's Tower) at night; arguably a view that hasn't changed for a hundred years

The Eye is new, but somehow it fits in, even to my retro-grouchy eyes

A packed lunch in Russell Square

A stroll along the now-gentrified South Bank, around the back of Southwark Cathedral towards the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern.

In "my day", a walk such as this would have been fraught with difficulties, now it's the proverbial (and sometimes literal) walk in the park.

I was scared when I got here that London would have changed and would no longer be the city I remembered. Perhaps I remembered it as a party town for students and that reality would not fit comfortably with the responsibilities, limitations and exigencies of the 40 yo me.

London has changed, but it's evolved. Some bits are way more tacky; swathes of mobile phone shops, betting shops, Tescos Metros and "British-themed" shops selling a bastardised version of the British experience. But these places are more than balanced out by Cool Britannia; the reclaimed areas of the city which twenty years ago were nigh on unapproachable but have since been gentrified to provided markets and boutiques and coffee shops. The tat might have encroached on the West End per se, but the boundaries of Cool Britannia have also encroached upon the darkness to bring light.

It would be unreasonable to expect London to have remained unchanged in the 20-odd years since I left, but, you know, I like what they've done with the place!


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