Featured London Blogger: What is London?
15:09 21 December 2012
With 10,000 years of history beneath your feet; London is chock-a-block with history and mystery. London over the centuries is a city that has seen plunderers, builders, kings, queens, and peoples from all corners of the planet (and in some instances you would think from even beyond)
London, the nerve-centre of the 2nd World War; stood alone and at bay in guarding the future of the civilised world, as the doors of Europe clanged shut. A covert city of mystery; MI5, MI6, CIA; cloak and dagger – a murky nether world of “dead letter boxes”.
London is the financial capital of the world; both a disaster and a success story the greatest and the worst of both worlds are here. A place where cutting-edge, 21st Century power and energy are tangible. Home to Westminster the forge of the national destiny; the place where the heart of the Empire beats; the Mecca of politicians throughout the ages.
Constantly in the news, London shapes not only the United Kingdom; it shapes the history of other countries and cultures in far-flung corners of the planet. London is the centre of a democratic country that like a shape-shifter changes her personality to suit the person who lives in her suburbs.
London is a city of contrasts; poor and rich; hot and cold; pretty and ugly; clean and filthy; old and new. It is quiet and noisy; a place of fun and laughter as well as terror and fear. London was once recognised for its slums and opulence; a paradox of artistic expression and social ferment and human mix. It is a workplace and playground featuring iconic places such as Leicester Square; China Town; Soho and Covent Garden. London is a time-honoured city, is constantly reinventing itself; a changing landscape of development and progress; mixing the old with the new, Westminster; Southwark; Chelsea; Canary Wharf and the Olympics 2012 Village.
London is timeless; ancient, modern – ever the same and constantly changing. Yellow brick, worm-worn timbers, ancient terracotta tiles and pristine marble, a city of winding canals, twisting cobbled streets and narrow alley-ways with broad tree-lined avenues, that are cobwebbed and dynamic.
London is a city redolent of antiquity with quirky and curious street names. Gas-lit 1890′s streets harboured names such as Bleeding Heart Yard; Cut Throat Alley; Cock Lane; Cardinal Cap Alley; Cloth Fair; Charter House; Crooked Usage; Cyclops Mews; Frying Pan Alley; Ha Ha Road and Tweezers Alley. There were roads known by the name of Quaggy Walk; Bacon’s Lane; Threadneedle Street; Shoot-Up Hill; Little Britain; Haberdasher Street; Poultry Street; Crutched Frairs; Seething Lane and Pear Tree Lane (without a pear tree in sight).London is a city of pubs which go by the name of Shakespeare’s Head; The Ten Bells (where the Ripper likely eyed his victims); Horseshoe; King’s Head & Eight Bells; Goose and Granite and The Gatehouse.
London is a city of priceless jewels; abbeys; cathedrals; palaces; towers; bridges; squares; parks and gardens. There are fountains; lakes; and statues as well as monuments; half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings; terraced georgian houses; victorian mansions; mediaeval and gothic churches and cemeteries.
There is a Russian cathedral, a crystal palace; a palace that isn’t a palace but an exhibition hall – Alexander Palace; synagogues; mosques; white stucco homes and 60′s terraced houses. There are thatched cottages; colour-washed Mews; Tudor homes; modern sky-scrapers; theatres; cosy old pubs and cobblestones. A weird subway that inspired the greatest London poem ever; underground railways and forgotten tunnels. Alleyways so narrow you can’t open an umbrella in them; cannons; silver dragons and Chinese lanterns.
London has annual flower shows; the world’s largest nautical museum; museums that are home to the Rosetta Stone, ancient Egyptian mummies and 140 billion frozen peas. There are a quarter of a million butterflies; Sutton Hoo treasure; and world-famous paintings housed in galleries large and small. There are quaint Villages; busy market stalls; bustling river-side piers; a place of a maypole; a centuries old peep-hole; Victorian sewage pipes and a 13th Century White Chapel. There is a most spectacular statue and the Cutty Sark, city of canals and boats; cafe’s; studios; zoos; hills, walls, woodland, fens and meadows – an urban enchanted forest.
London gave birth to fair maids, feminists and philanthropists; smugglers, tars and pirates a place where 13 knights performed three deeds of bravery. London is also the final resting place of heroes; inventors; statesmen, kings and queens, cardinals, and a forgotten soldier. It is a city of Robert Browning & Elizabeth Barrett, Oscar Wilde and James Bond,as well as Burgess, Maclean, Blunt, Philby Shackleton and Livingston. It is also a city of Shakespeare, Horatio Nelson, Christopher Wren, Charles Dickens, Jack the Ripper, Dick Whittington and Winston Churchill. London inhabits rock-stars, film-stars and the haunt of the Beatles. It is home to nuns and friars, the knights of Malta, The knights templar, and scarlet-coated Chelsea Pensioners, sloane rangers, hooray Henry’s, cockney’s, hippies, punks, goths, artists, actors, the Krays, the Elephant Man, Geoffrey Chaucer, 11,000 beheaded virgins and ‘real’ people – citizens of a thriving metropolis.
London a city that today, despite the ravages of time; riots, bombings, fires and plagues, legends, monsters and mysteries and with a rich tapestry of the paranormal – is still colourful and cosmopolitan; alive with celebration, pageantry and age-old traditions.
Spectacular fireworks, concerts, strikes, carnivals, street fairs, fairs in the square, frost fairs on the Thames – the most celebrated was the one in 1683-4 that was attended by King Charles II when the Thames froze over.
London is the city that stands at the beginning of time on the Meridian Line; the city that inspired authors and artists; playwrights and poets.
“Earth has not anything to show more fair”. Wordsworth.