Weeks later and the pain from Brexit shows no signs of abating in London. While the rest of the country seems to have returned its attention to Celebrity Big Brother and the even more horrific reality television show that is the upcoming US election, Londoners have yet to raise their mournful heads from their hands. So much so, that our new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has taken my advice and is trying to soothe heads and hearts with art. Friday was the launch of the #LondonisOpen campaign using artists to proclaim that London is Open…to everyone. As I adore my new Mayor, who was formerly my MP, I will quote him at length “Art is a powerful way to say London is open — open for business, open to ideas, and open to the people from across the world who have chosen to live and work here. London’s world-renowned arts and cultural activity is testament to the success of London as an international city. We’ve asked some of the world’s leading artists to help us communicate the simple but vital message that despite uncertainties around Brexit, London will remain an international city.”
The first poster unveiled, on Friday, at Southwark Tube station, is by artist Richard Shrigley. A simple message: everyone welcome. Work by other artists can be found scattered throughout the transport network, including Gillian Wearing’s Towards World Peace on the moving posters at Bank. Additional artists will add their own images to stations starting in September. An ad campaign dedicated to reminding us that London is the greatest city in the world, regardless of the Brexit fall out. If you are a smart person you already know this to be irrefutable. For the rest, I don’t believe Brexit will make any difference. So an ad campaign for the true believers….how lovely.
Creatures who definitely understand the worth of my city, however, are Pokemon, because there are so so so many of them here. And catching them has become my latest addiction. The whole concept is genius. Utter genius. The game came to the UK the first week of July. In my rare disguise as a responsible parent I pretended to disapprove and refused to allow Stephen to put the game on my phone. So he put it on his father’s. And he was off. Navigating the neighborhood like he had The Knowledge. I realized I had so missed a trick. A game that involved dashing from landmark to landmark in pursuit of tiny creatures was sweeping the world, and I was opting to sit it out???? The woman who has hunted elephants and Easter eggs and sheep and bears and buses and dream jars and Olympic mascots was turning her nose up at this??? A chance to roam for hours and hours and hours in the city that she loves with no more goal than being in the moment??? And best of all, my children think I am WONDERFUL, more than wonderful, THE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD for saying “let’s wander round London all day long…..” If the only concession I am forced to make in this deal is allowing a little phone fiddling at intervals, well I can certainly live with that. AND you can take the most adorable photos. Instagramming heaven. I put the app on my phone and “gave” it to Katherine. Yesterday with Stephen on his father’s phone and Katherine with mine, we emerged from the Tube at Charing Cross and walked for hours and more than 10 kilometers, all over Westminster, seeing the buildings and parks with fresh eyes…not rushing from one location to the next in pursuit of some schedule, but strolling, watching, waiting for magical creatures to appear and dance for the camera. When both phone batteries died we headed home for some literal recharging…..and then back out. Because the Tate Modern is open until 10 on Saturdays, and the illusive Mr. Mime was rumoured to hang out there. Never have two young children been so excited to go to an art gallery, at night. And while we didn’t find Mr. Mime, the galleries were filled with other Pokemon. And art. Gorgeous, wonderful art, including the new Georgia O’Keeffe show. This is exactly what is meant by a win-win situation. At 10pm we headed out to Bankside and wandered, along with crowds and plenty more Pokemon, down to Waterloo Station. Outside the National Theatre a drag queen disco was taking place, the Pokemon caught there, Jynx, seemed to have dressed for the occasion, complete with blond wig. Hilarious.
Up early this morning to join the queue for the Tower of London, THE hotspot according to Time Out, 30 minutes before it opened. Good thing I am a member. And yes, Stephen and Katherine caught loads, often helped by the equally mad for Pokemon Go Tower guards. And for me, it was a most wonderful morning. I have been to the Tower many, many times. But always just rushing from exhibit to exhibit, worrying about time and schedules, fussing over guests…and this morning, well NONE of that. Just looking up and around and admiring and taking time, lots and lots of time (sometimes Pokemon keep you waiting) to absorb the Tower itself, the buildings against a pure blue sky, the gargoyles, the stonework, the pieces of armor ignored by the crowds, the way the shadows fall on the grass and the silhouettes of the ravens on the walls. “Isn’t it nice to just stand and take it in,” said a guard. I couldn’t agree more.
Then on to Regent’s Park, which was crowded. Very crowded. And filled with Pokemon hunters. Of all ages and shapes and sizes. Wandering the paths and gardens, phones held aloft, shouts of delight and disappointment piercing the air. Regent’s Park isn’t my usual patch. It is place I find confusing and get frequently lost. Usually I am rushing (late) to the Open Air Theatre or waiting for the Frieze Art Fair shuttle….but this afternoon was different. No rushing and all waiting done without frantic “I am going to miss out” impatience. These Pokemon are tricky, wily creatures. They don’t always show up where you expect, they surprise and delight. They reward rambling. And flower sniffing. And people watching. And taking it all in. And that is exactly what I have been doing. Peacefully, happily taking in my beloved city. The most open city in the world. London: Everyone Welcome. Especially Zubat and friends.
Tonight, 48 hours on from the start of our Pokemon Go odyssey, we are weary. My feet hurt. We have covered more than 30 kilometers in 2 days. But I am happy. Katherine has caught 174 on my behalf, Stephen boasts over 200. I have hundreds of fabulous photos. And my Good Mummy badge is shining brighter than Pikachu himself. Perfect.