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The Londoner Tales

January 10, 2013
Unless it is past 2am, in which case, apparently, St. Paul's saves electricity.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, a shining beacon into the night.

To move almost directly from a nation of sand to a nation of water was shocking.  I used to watch the dust storms rolling in, across Amman, from the desert to the East, blocking out the sun in waves of red grit and dirt and sand.  If I were Seurat, I would have used blobs of brown, of yellow, and of white to paint the Middle Eastern cityscape.  Here, it is as if that photograph is polarized and reversed.  Shades of green and gray dominate the pallete, along with pouting, pregnant blues and flashes of bright red- those double-decker busses zigzagging across the Thames.  There, sand was an active factor impacting your life; you cursed and accepted the grit in your clothes, in your hair, and the sun’s heat as much as Brits accept yet grumble at the seemingly constant drizzle that dribbles from the sky.  There you saw the ladies protected by their bejeweled hijabs.  Here, women nestle safely under black umbrellas and into no nonsense boots with marching orders.

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His shtick is to show up in different parts of London, don his top hat, and blow fire out of his tuba to a recorded tune from Carmen. Hey, everyone’s gotta make a living.

This is London.

He meandered down Fleet Street wearing a smoking jacket with patches on the elbows, brown corduroy pants, fancy narrow leather shoes an old fashioned newsboy cap over his snow white hair, complete with long sideburns.  He carried a wooden cane and smoked a fat brown pipe, clearly visible against his neatly trimmed gray beard.  The tobacco exhaust curled serenely towards the sky as he walked, leaving a trail of pleasant smelling haze in his wake.  He was more British looking than any modern Brit had any right to look.  A barrister’s wig peaked out of his leather briefcase.

Bertran works at the local Tesco Metro near to my flat in Southwark.  He is from Cote d’Ivoire, is built like a football linebacker, and has a constant smile.  He has lived in London for ten years now.  The first time I went into the Tesco and stood, hand on hip, looking at the vegetables, he offered recipe options for kale in his low sonorous voice.  He now waves to me when I pass by the store, and we catch each other’s eyes.

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A musician playing sax at Portobello Road Market. He was pretty good actually.

“Do you want this umbrella?” I was asked by a pleasant looking middle aged man with a thick British accent. He looked up at the light rain coming down and proffered a large black umbrella with a wooden knob handle.  I was sans umbrella, but was wearing a hat, so all in all, I thought I looked less bedraggled and pathetic than the average girl caught in the rain unprepared.

“Don’t you want it, sir?” He wasn’t holding up another umbrella, and his hair was plastered in strings across his pate.

“I don’t need it.  I have loads at home.  This lady just came up to me a few minutes ago and said, ‘I no need!  Go to home China!” and before I could protest, she thrust the umbrella my hands.  It is a very nice umbrella.  It’s made of wood.”  His voice had gone plaintive; he once more pushed the umbrella towards me.  I accepted it, thanked him, and used it for the rest of my walk.  It now sits in my room at home.  Someday soon, I plan on finding someone desperate looking in the rain and passing it along, perhaps with “Chinese Lady.  British man.  Luca, American.  Pass it on and add your name and nationality!” written on the handle in black permanent marker.

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Tower Bridge by night. I live near here. Here!

Kay, originally from Malaysia, lives in Shoreditch, and is an avid swing dancer.  She is enrolled in a cupcake making school and wants to make cakes for a living.  She is passionate about frosting and Manchester United.

When I moved to London in September, I was told by a British friend that I only had to remember one piece of advice to assimilate nicely into British culture: ‘Drink more, worry less.’  Her advice has proven apt, if sometimes hard to follow.  In Amman, I was told to ‘Smoke more, worry less.’  I suppose it’s nice to know, that despite being oceans and color palettes apart, some things are universal.

This is London.

This is London, for the careful, wandering American, reaching for a gestalt world.

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Printed on a wooden door, next to the south side of the Thames.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 4:57 PM

    Do you mean palette?

    I saw that fire tuba guy on the Southbank a month or two ago, though I now cannot seem to find the photo.

  2. Philip permalink
    January 9, 2013 7:06 PM

    Lovely sentiment and an excellent picture (with words, though I like the photo too) of the city. I wonder what it says that everywhere looks at you as an American and says ‘…worry less.’

  3. Marvin the G. permalink
    January 9, 2013 7:23 PM

    Write more, worry less.

  4. January 10, 2013 4:35 AM

    Love the description of contrasts, esp. the Seurat ref.

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