“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson, September 20, 1777
Some have said that the quote above, by the man who gave us the first dictionary of the English language, is a rather pompous, boastful, stupid remark. Well let it not be read as some marker that this place is the centre of the Universe, just merely as a celebratory acknowledgement of this great city and the multitude of treasures it has to offer both visitor and resident alike. After all, though this is undoubtedly the most famous of his comments on the capital, he also said: “If you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.” Like many of the world’s most interesting cities, London has been truly cosmopolitan for centuries.
Living here, following the routine of our individual daily grind, it is all too easy to forget what joys and wonders are here right on our doorstep; however, it is just as easy to remind ourselves of them all too.
I am a man for all seasons, embracing each of them for their individual beauty and magic they hold, though here I write of now: undeniably a glorious summer in this city brings it further to life in a most vibrant way and thus far, the season upon us is proving to be a golden one. Hot halcyon days stretch on into balmy nights; and, putting aside those times when one may have to endure the sweat, stench and compounded frustration of rush hour travel, or work through the hours when freer pleasures see us yearn freedom from the shackles of duties; this historic capital truly shines in these warmer months.
I need make no argument that this fair green isle of ours is known for its changeable weather, just as we the inhabitants are known for our obsession with it. Be we experiencing rainstorm or sunshine, our conversations, and our national press, make so much of it, in a way that is probably unique to our culture. Of course, by very content I am doing the same here.
I’ve never really quite understood why many will refer to grey clouds and precipitation as ‘miserable’, giving what is perfect and natural an emotion to influence our own. However, there is no denying a good dose of Vitamin D exposure is truly one of the most powerful healing therapies in the world; nothing comes close to the rejuvenating power of natural sunlight.
So, recently, stepping out into this golden embrace, some of my most favourite tunes playing upon the ipod, I wandered my new stomping ground of central East London, eagerly effervescent, on a voyage of discovery as if I was walking these familiar streets for the first time, reawakened to the splendour of St.Paul’s and abundant charm of Spitafields; Summer is upon us, and it feels GOOD.
As these rays indulge us by warming our bodies and caressing our souls so boldly, no-one would need me to tell them to embrace it fully; you know there is something in the air right now. Just gently perambulate those pavements, explore with ease, take rest in our beautiful parks – and – should you have never done it, step aboard a boat and take a journey upon the River Thames.
A deserted beach of glistening water and honey-due sand may be what we want most on such days as these, but we would be foolish to forget the inherent beauty that is the sun-kissed aqua vitae right here on our doorstep; perhaps not to swim in, or indeed drink, but to float upon nonetheless.
“Water, the Hub of Life… Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium… Life is water dancing...”
So step aboard and DANCE; a trip upon Old Father Thames brings the metropolis to you in a majestic new way; from the estuary’s awesome beginnings in Essex, passing on to Greenwich, under Tower Bridge and along all the way to Kew Gardens and the tranquil waters of Richmond. I’m not suggesting you take this entire voyage all at once, that would be a day in itself. Make instead for a relaxing way to travel to an exciting destination that is much better approached by the greatest highway we have. I myself have journeyed by catamaran, paddle steam, Oxford punt and good old rowing boat – perhaps my next will be with the billow of sails.