Sleeps To Go…On A Small Island

I have been reading Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island during my commute this week and this morning, I read a page that really struck a chord.

One of the things I am asked by every second (or maybe third) Brit the minute they hear my accent is ‘what are you doing over here?’  Well, let me refer you to page 46 of Bryson’s tome:

“It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press (nowadays lively in a sinister, phone-tapping kind of way it would seem), better theatres…leafier squares…and more courageous inhabitants than any other large city in the world.”

He also talks about the ‘incidental civilities’

“cheery red pillar boxes, drivers who actually stop for you on pedestrian crossings …lovely forgotten churches …sudden pockets of quiet like Lincoln’s Inn and Red Lion Square…black cabs, double-decker buses…polite notices, people who will stop to help you when you fall down or drop your shopping, benches everywhere.”

It inspired me to think about some of the things I love about London and as I was gazing out of the window of the number 57 bus tonight, here are the first five that sprang to mind:

  • the light – it’s soft and beautiful and drapes itself gently over great expanses of countryside within 30mins of London
  • the fabulous place names – I am just dying to get on the bus to see what Seething Wells is all about and St Martin In The Field overlooks not a field but Trafalgar Square

  • the squirrels – skipping across the railing along my front garden, in the tree overhead, the little ones daring to venture a little way along my front path towards my open door before scurrying away at the behest of the bigger ones
  • the sun worship – with the merest hint of sunshine, Londoners appear from every nook and cranny and cram themselves along river banks, in parks and all sorts of public places to bask at lunchtime, after work, on weekends and any available opportunity
  • the irony – the Brit’s do that dry, dry wit better than anyone else – and really know how to poke gentle fun at themselves (and others) as a result.

There are loads of other things and I could go on (and on and on) but this post was inspired by someone else’s vision of the place I call home.  So what about you?  I’d love hear what you love about London, whether it’s your home, your home-away-from-home, a memory captured for holiday posterity or a trigger for the nostalgic yearning of days gone by.

What do you consider worthy of note about this small island? 

ps…there are 20 sleeps to go peeps…that’s less than 3 weeks for all your Gidday shopping and shipping. Just as well I’m super-prepared with my wishlist at the ready should any of you need a little helping hand.  I mean let’s face it, who has to have a wedding to partake of one of those Bridal Register thingies?

3 thoughts on “Sleeps To Go…On A Small Island

  1. Mum sent me this email in response to this post – with her permission I am posting it to share!
    As a visitor just twice to your small island, here is my input.

    The 5 things that initially surprised and pleased me were:

    – Cleanliness – I had always envisaged soot and grime and smoke around the myriad of chimneys in London. As an old city, I didn't expect the constant cleaning of the streets and the wonderful “scrubbed” facades of the beautiful old buildings. Even the subway was cleaner than I expected.

    – History – I had an understanding of London being one of history's stalwart cities, but I was unprepaid for the absolute mecca that I discovered. Being able to visit quite easily those places depicted in school history books and novels was at times so “unreal” that I thought I might disappear down the rabbit hole at any minute

    – Scenery – I didn't expect the green fields and the flowers and the little pockets of scenic delight as I travelled around the city. My expectation was that it would be old, grey and constantly raining

    – Sunshine – Having lived all my life in the year-round sunshine until I arrived in Melbourne, and then only having a short period of Winter, I had no idea how lucky I'd been. Watching the joy of Londoners as they tried to gather rays from the intermittent flashes of not-so-warm sunshine, I really “got” their genuine enjoyment.

    – Public Transport – Although the locals may not agree, I think the public transport system is one of the best. As a visitor, I had very little difficulty in crossing London in many different directions. Stations and bus stops were well mapped and then the locals always pointed me in the right direction.

    On the thumbs down side, what struck me was:

    – Almost total lack of good customer service (this requires comments enough to fill a book)
    – The queues – everybody queues for everything and nobody seems to care that it takes forever. This is probably an off-shoot of the lack of customer service

    While I found Londoners wonderful if I required help – and I asked for it, I found it strange that if I greeted commuters or passers by, I seemed to be looked on as a bit of a nuisance, or disturbing their thoughts. I got the “just who are you?” look most of the time



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