Tag Archives: Southbank

On how London is Open and FULL of Pokemon….56/100

DSC_0512Weeks 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 DSC_0524 (2)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 IMG_2016-07-30-12142215mascots 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 IMG_2016-07-30-21464462then 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, IMG_2016-07-30-22134596down 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 DSC_0532guard. 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 IMG_2016-07-31-17224868you 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.

IMG_2016-07-31-18513771IMG_2016-07-31-09272647Tonight, 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.

On A Perfect Day…..the Southbank Poet 42/100

poemWhen the sun is shining there is no more beautiful place in the entire world than London. Perhaps it is because sunny days are not to be taken for granted on this northern isle, especially this spring. The weather has been fickle, to say the least. So, on Friday, when my frequent partner in adventure, Sara and I exited the Tube at Embankment, with the intention of visiting the Botticelli drawings at the Courtauld Gallery, we couldn’t bear to go inside “Let’s just stay outside a bit longer,” said Sara. So we walked through to the Somerset House terrace. The Thames was sparkling in the sunshine. The Eye was visible through the buds on the trees, framed by endless blue sky. London was aglow, as only London can be. Magic.

Then we noticed some activity to our right. Tents, chairs, tables….oooh what is this? And so I said, in my loud American voice, “Ooooh what is this…” As if by command, Richard, head chef of soon to open Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House appeared. For the summer, outdoor drinking and dining, ideal place to meet up with friends…We made enthusiastic responses. Soft opening Tuesday night, press night Thursday, want to come??? Well yes, we do. But can’t do Thursday, maybe Tuesday? Weather permitting….Oh, Sara and I do like to be the first at things….

Still reluctant to go inside we continued along the Embankment. To Two Temple Place. A little jewel of a building happily unknown to most. I intend to dedicate a whole piece to its worship so don’t want to say too much now, except that it is only open to the public for occasional exhibitions, and I knew the recent one was over, having visited on the penultimate day, previous week. But the movers were still carrying things out. And the doors were wide open. “Oh, please can I just show my friend the staircase. Two minutes, I promise.” I begged the foreman. He broke into a wide smile. “Two minutes.” Sara admired it as I knew she would. Greatly. And then I told her it was available for private parties. We are forever planning our fantasy party at dream locations all over London. Add this one to the list.

Where next? Southbank of course. Over Hungerford Bridge….and, suddenly, nothing. Or no one, actually. After the madness of the recent Shakespeare extravaganza and the all too familiar jostling with clueless tourists in my favourite part of London, it was almost eerie to have it to ourselves. Nice, but eerie. Where was everyone? At work (as Sara was supposed to be, but I am a bad influence) or perhaps scared away by the dire forecast. What a pleasure to stroll along, admiring the city from Bankside without having to navigate selfie sticks and packs of bored school children. As we approached the Tate, discussing whether we pop in for coffee  there or continue down to Borough Market, I saw him. The Southbank Poet. I have been looking for him forever. IMG_2210And there he was. Between the man blowing enormous bubbles and the musician. At his little table with his adorable green Olivetti typewriter sat writer and poet, Lewis Parker. I had heard rumour of him for years, but had yet to find him myself. His sign offered poems, stories and suicide notes (certainly not!), & more. We later found out later that the “more” tends to be resignation letters.

IMG_2206“There he is, there he is,” I shouted at Sara, grabbing her arm excitedly, like a crazed pop fan or royal family devotee. If she was surprised that the object of my enthusiasm was a young, serious man with typewriter, she didn’t let on. She knows me well, after all.

We rushed over. Oh please, please write me a poem. He nodded and asked if I could provide either a subject or a title. Something cheerful, because I am the happiest person you will ever meet and it is a glorious day!!! He nodded calmly, unfazed by my exuberance. “Give me ten minutes,” he said

So we wandered a bit further along. Then watched as another man approach Lewis and demanded a poem , “I am in a rush.” A rush for poetry. How extraordinary.  He seemed desperate, unhinged almost. So I graciously nodded to indicate it was fine to take him first. And so we stood, Sara and I, gazing up over Millennium Bridge toward St Paul’s. IMG_2216With the trees rustling and bending in the increasingly strong wind. Daydreaming. Nowhere else on earth I would have rather been at that moment.

I wrote recently about my desire to learn to read poetry properly. (On Good Friday and Poetry, 38/100) The mastery of verse remains a mystery to me, but one I very much want to crack. I fantasize of spending my advancing years sitting somewhere lovely, with a small tome in hand, relishing the beauty of the words. It must be considered progress that on this gorgeous day I was having a poem written for me, on the Southbank.  By the Southbank poet.

And here it is:

A Windy Day
The weathervane pointed at suicide
until you came by and it swung to coffee.
Then as you chased a bobble hat down the street
it switched again to sunbathing-by-contemplation.
As we swirled in all directions like propellers
shedding scarves and hat and sunglasses,
we decided to just stand still and listen
to the whirlwinds and hope somebody was
taking notes.

We read it out loud. Loved it. I was delighted. More than delighted. I may have it framed. We thanked him verbally and monetarily, profusely and vowed to stay in touch. Then, as I clutched my poem and began to walk away, it started to hail. And snow. Because London is magic. Pure magic.

Instagram: @mylondonpassion