London Aye or London Nay

30Apr13

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner that I love London so. Or maybe it’s because of the transport link infrastructure. Either way it’s a very special place to me. It’s where my daughter first came into the world, where I met my wife and where I was born. Not necessarily in that order. In an effort to cobble together three disparate activities into some sort of theme I have written a ‘guide’ to this great city (and it is a city) which the mainstream media have dubbed ‘London Aye or London Nay’.

Imperial War Museum

War! What is it good for? Well, it makes a ruddy decent subject for a museum for a start. I arrived at the Imperial War Museum just in time to catch a talk given by a man with an accent not heard since the invention of colour television. He looked the epitome of a ‘thoroughly decent chap’, sporting a blue blazer complemented by grey trousers with a crease so sharp his slacks were the most dangerous thing in a building dedicated to weaponry. He came across as enthusiastic, knowledgeable and likeable: blushing endearingly each time he said the word ‘Fokker’ in reference to the German fighter plane.

I’d planned to just listen to the first few minutes but was genuinely gripped and stayed for the full two hour talk before setting out to explore the rest of the museum. The second floor is wholly dedicated to the Navy so I decided to give it a miss as this simply didn’t float my boat. I’m fairly confident that last sentence contained a joke but can’t be certain. Instead I ventured to the basement to experience a recreation of a bunker during an air raid. A small group of us were ushered into the faux bunker while speakers blasted fizzing bombs and distant sirens. We sat on a low wooden bench and were instantly plunged into darkness. A soundtrack began of a conversation between several Cockneys to give the impression they were in the bunker with us. I don’t wish to sound patronising but I do find their funny little accents simply too delicious.

 "Hello? Yes, I'd like to vote for Will Young to win Pop Idol please. No I can't think of a more recent pop culture reference. Why do you ask?"

“Hello? Yes, I’d like to vote for Will Young to win Pop Idol please. No I can’t think of a more recent pop culture reference. Why do you ask?”

The fragile illusion was shattered when the person opposite me decided now would be a good time to text. Their smugly indifferent face was illuminated by the phone and I was sorely tempted to grab it and smash their skull again and again and again. However, I restrained myself as it seemed wrong to ruin this recreation of wartime by bringing violence into it. Plus she was only about seven.

Verdict: London Aye

The London Studios

Being a celebrity isn’t easy. As the writer of a blog with a global audience of close to double figures, I know only too well the hassle of being recognised. I’m often pestered with questions like “hey, aren’t you that guy who takes a sideways look at life as a location independent graphic designer?”. To which I normally reply “yes Mum, you know I am”.

Pause for laughter.
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I had some empathy then as I passed The London Studios on the South Bank and spotted a mob of autograph hunters waiting to assail guests on The Jonathan Ross Show. I can’t recall what I was doing on the South Bank (probably fundraising for charity or donating blood) but decided it could wait and joined the excitable throng. Seconds later a stretched limousine pulled up meaning we were either in the presence of a ‘Sleb’ or an Essex Hen party had taken a wrong turn. The car doors opened producing the kind of crowd hysteria reserved for rock stars, movie icons and blog authors. The cry immediately went up “Tom. Tom! Tom! Tom! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM! TOM!” After just a few seconds I deduced this must be a reference to the traditional shortening of the name ‘Thomas’ and joined in – quickly working myself into a spittle-flecked frenzy.

A young chap with impressive ‘famous person’ hair walked towards us and began signing photos of Tom Daley the Nation’s-High-Dive-Sweetheart. Could it be? Yes it be. I was literally 14 inches or 0.0003 km’s from the Olympic hero. Tom radiated the kind of healthy glow which only comes from repetitively hurling one’s body into water at high speeds.

I realised this may be my only opportunity to meet a high dive bronze medallist so had to make it count. I considered a celebratory chest bump but was restrained from doing so by the railings between us and my conservative upbringing. Instead, I let fly with a ‘s’up’ tilt back of the head and sucked my teeth. It was a moment neither of us will ever forget.

Verdict: London Nay

Hayward Gallery

Ask anybody what they think of when they hear the word ‘China’ and they will inevitably say ‘T’Pau – China in Your Hand’. However, there really is so much more to this part of Asia as the Hayward Gallery set out to prove with their exhibition: Art of Change: New Directions from China.

The show is an interactive collection of mind bothering treats ranging from a four metre tall tower of human fat to a mutilated table tennis table.

As Steve and I battled into a fifth set tie break a transfixed crowd looked on in awe.

As Steve and I battled into a fifth set tie break a transfixed crowd looked on in awe.

The highlight for me was a performance piece set in a small room, transformed into a forest and accessed through an Alice in Wonderland style door. An ethereal woman sat on a tree stump singing softly to herself before approaching the small audience with an eerily wide smile. I was slightly unnerved when she put her face a few centimetres from mine and stared deeply into the chocolate soulfulness of my eyes for several seconds. She repeated this uncomfortably intimate approach with others while muttering in ears and invading personal space. It was like being on a night bus at 3am with a drunk but in quite a good way.

Verdict: London Aye

City Guide Archive
Lisbon or Lisboff
Brno or Bryes
Paris or Parisn’t
Berlin or Berlout

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2 Responses to “London Aye or London Nay”

  1. 1 Stuart Harrison

    Great stuff Dave. Well worth the wait!
    Stuart

  2. Thanks Stuart. Brace yourself for another post sometime around 2015!


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