Oxford Street and beyond   Leave a comment

I left work late and strolled down Oxford Street. Down past the umbrella shop, one of the most amazing shops in London. Straight out of Victorian times.

Past the cheap Chinese buffets and snack shops and English colleges leaking young, beautiful people. It is a balmy evening, the first real one of the year. The feel of warm air on my skin is sensuously beautiful.

It is not as hot as Dar where the sweat drips down the back of your legs. Not as mad as Bangkok. Almost like New York but not as dirty or as manic. Because of the warmth there is a general uplift in mood. I see people catching eyes and smiling as they pass, the secret communication of happiness.

At Tottenham Court Station, outside the theatre are throngs of people waiting to see Rock of Ages. I run across the road and hit the section where the big shops are. I am struck by the beauty of the young people.  A young man in shorts and a shirt walks towards me. He is straight out of a catalogue. Young lovers are everywhere, the heat increasing the passion.

The whole street is hung with the Union Jack. I have very mixed emotions. The conditioned citizen of a former colony has been taught to hate this as a symbol of imperialism. But the logical and critical part of me says, ‘you know you live in Londistan, but you also know that this is located in the UK and you choose to live here.’ I try to reconcile the conflict by telling myself, that I am happy for these people to celebrate their queen (even though the concept of a queen, a ruler, a monarch is completely incomprehensible to me). I try to look at the Union Jacks across the street as pretty decorations. (I guess, not particularly successfully because I’m writing this now.)

Down past Selfridges on the right and the huge Primark on the left, two extremes of shopping. Then Oxford Street begins to become more Arabic. The perfume shop with its beautiful smells drifting out the door.

I hit Marble Arch and the trashy souvenir shops and cheap burger places.  Across the road and through the Arch a small park is full of Arabic families, spilling over from Edgware Road, sitting on the scrubby grass, enjoying the warmth of the evening.

Into Hyde Park. It is almost dark now. A film crew on the right with big spotlights and a queue at the food van. I keep close to the railings because I don’t want to get locked in.  I walk on the grass and love the feel of the earth under my feet. The rain of the past few months has made the park overgrown and jungle-like. I make it to Lancaster Gate before I have to leave because the park is shutting.

I’m back on the pavement and all along the railings on my left are unsuspecting tourists who have been caught in the park late. Some are trying to jump the railings. A few kindly Londoners standing outside are directing others to the gates that are still open.

Past Kensington Gardens, then left and through the quiet road where the embassies are. The quietness of high security and wealth seeps into the road. It is a relief from the noise. Out onto Kensington High Street and back into the noise again. Past Holland Park on the right before the long stretch to Hammersmith. And finally out onto the river’s edge, the peaceful, silent river and down the river to home.

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