Today was one of those perfect London days where you suddenly realise what Samuel Johnson meant when he said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The Sockwearingenglishman and I had an appointment at London Bridge this morning and so we were up and about and at London Bridge by mid-morning. After our appointment we had a bit of time to spare before I was meeting up with a friend and went wandering about through Borough Market and onto the South Bank.
I believe there is a bit of a thing in London about whether one lives north or south of the river (personally I think living on the Isle of Dogs puts one in a nifty liminal zone, both physically north of the river, but also sneakily south of the city…) But whether one is from the North or the South of London, the South Bank seems to be a place of vibrancy where people of all types can mingle.
We went up and onto London Bridge and I saw through my lovely husband’s eyes that moment when you piece together the London puzzle as he oriented himself against St Pauls, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf and then ambled down under the bridge and along towards the Golden Hinde – a reconstruction of Drake’s famous ship – which honestly fills one with utter respect for anyone who could circumnavigate the world in such a tiny ship. We had a coffee sitting on a bench on the river’s edge, the tide was high and the wind was whipping my hair across my eyes and we were both pink-cheeked with the cold. There is something very sensuous about freezing hands nestled around hot cups of coffee.
SWE had to pootle off home but I met my lovely friend – newly back from Africa and looking tanned and healthy – and we walked along the river towards the Globe. We had lunch near there – overlooking the water – and it reminded me what a powerful force the Thames is in the history of this city. There were speed boats and ferries, touristy boats and police boats. People walking along the South Bank kept stopping to lean over the railings to stare into the water, it holding the same fascination for them as for me. The river was a defensive line, a trade route, a highway and that all-important dividing line between rule and mis-rule many centuries ago.
Although the day dulled from bright wintery blueness to a steel-cold grey, the South Bank only seemed to warm up, that vibrancy and warmth which would have attracted Shakespeare over 400 years ago as keen today.