Featured London Blogger: What is London?

15:09 21 December 2012

One of London

One of London's iconic landmarks Picture :Anirudh Koul

Archant

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)

Westminster the Mecca of politicians throughout the agesWestminster the Mecca of politicians throughout the ages

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.

Canary WharfCanary Wharf

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.

Fountain: Trafalgar Square Picture: Olivier BruchezFountain: Trafalgar Square Picture: Olivier Bruchez

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.

St Paul's CathedralSt Paul's Cathedral

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.

Piccadily CircusPiccadily Circus

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.

The River Thames at WoolwichThe River Thames at Woolwich

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.

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