Just a mishmash of things that caught me off guard.
1. Local transport isn’t twofold: it’s threefold. There’s buses, the tube, and about a million overground trains connecting the inner city with Greater London.
Some are the actual overground, or at least go by that name. There’s a train from Stratford to Richmond that connects Hampstead Heath super well with a lot of far-off areas. There’s the Thameslink, which I found out about the first time I went to Streatham by way of West Hampstead. And then there’s just trains. A lot of trains. Trains is how you get to areas like Tooting, Streatham, Croydon and whatnot, but also how you get to Haringay and Hertfordshire and Surrey. There are nineteen train platforms at Clapham Junction or possibly more — this is based on memory, not factual, and specifically based on the memory of running from platform 17 to platform 1 or viceversa in an attempt to not miss a train by one minute. Because, yeah, trains don’t run nearly as often as the tube does, and a lot of buses are worth tracking online, too, because they’ll show up once every 15-20 minutes.
The only overground train that shows on the tube map is the proper overground — the one that comes to Hampstead Heath — so it was a bit of a pain in the ass figuring out how to get to Streatham the first time I did. The person I was visiting called the train from Victoria the “Victoria line” — but it’s a train, not the tube, and I think it’s the Southern Rail. It’s certainly not a blue line on the tube map.
Then I lived in Streatham for a week, and now I know things like that there are local trains that will also take you as far as Brighton. Also, the area outside Clapham Junction station is bloody beautiful. I wish I’d taken the pictures the day I went down by bus, but I was busy keeping my luggage from rolling down the bus aisle. My bad. I’ll go back sometime.
2. Hampstead Heath is a massive park.It has ponds that people can bathe in. It has a reputation for gay cruising, too, I’ve been told. It’s huge. Before I was ever in Hampstead, I thought Hampstead Heath was part of Keats House. Like, I don’t know, a little garden or something. I thought Keats’s house was a proper museum. It’s not. It’s a little house with a little garden, and if you walk down the road, you end up on the southern path of Hampstead Heath. Which is massive.
It’s also a super posh area that people live in. Maybe not as posh as if you keep going south to Belsize Park and Primrose Hill with all the hipsters or whatever — and is Camden Town considered posh or just artsy? — but still pretty posh. I legitimately thought it was a far-out suburb. Now that I’ve lived in Streatham and Crouch End (and Bounds Green back in 2007), I… yeah, not so much.
Also, literally all those areas were new to me. I only knew about Primrose Hill because Nick Grimshaw lives in it, and Annemari is obsessed with him, and we completely accidentally booked a hotel right by Adelaide Road. And then I fell in love with Belsize Park, which I’d never heard of.
And here I am now, trying to achieve financial stability in one of the most expensive areas of one of the most expensive cities in the world.
It is ridiculously worth it.
Don’t Be Silly, Of Course We Have To Talk About the Weather
3. The weather isn’t bad: it’s just ridiculous.
I mean, yeah, rain, whatever, that’s kind of what I moved here for. I love it. There were some days in summer that were stiflingly hot, and on a couple of them I had to ride buses, and it was excruciating. It’s still not nearly as terrible as the weather in Spain, and look, okay, before you tell me I’m a weirdo for disliking the weather in Spain, try living through a summer in the middle of the meseta without airconditioning. Try to get some work done, too. Then get back to me.
Anyway, here’s what baffles me: actual longtime Londoners heed the weather forecast. Y’all, the weather forecast is literally always wrong. People who have lived here for a long time will cancel a shoot a day or more in advance because the weather forecast says it’s going to rain. It has literally never once rained during the time a shoot that was cancelled for weather reasons was scheduled. Seriously. Sometimes, even canceling on the day is pointless. Last Sunday, Sally and I agreed to cancel a couple shoot in the Bank area because it was pouring rain in the morning. I got up, I went in the shower, and when I came out, the sun was shining into my room. Warmly, even. Bright.
I’m pretty sure it didn’t rain the whole rest of the day, either.
A jacket is usually worth taking with you, especially if you’re going to be out for a length of time. I’ve never taken a jacket with me here and not ended up putting it on. I’m guilty of taking socks with me and putting them on on the bus, too. And at Starbucks.
The Ubiquity of Street Markets
4. Street markets are everywhere. They’re so everywhere they’re like an actual citywide thing.Seriously, there are so many. You’ve got normal farmer’s markets, and bigger markets, and flower markets (where Sarah bought these peonies), and markets inside venues, and markets in the middle of the street, and some are over the weekend and some go on all week. It’s not just Camden Town (which is an area, not just a market) and Portobello Rd — which, by the way, is not only up on Saturdays, but Saturdays are the only days the antique stalls are there. Or so I hear. I’ve only ever gone on a Saturday, and it was back in 2007.
Speaking of Portobello Market, though, it’s closed this weekend. For a carnival. This one:
5. The Notting Hill Carnival. Or any other carnival, for that matter, but that’s the one Portobello Market is closed this weekend for.
Apparently this has been going on for years. Never even remotely on my radar until someone mentioned it in one of my blogger groups, I expressed interest, and I was asked to cover it by a PR company to give you guys a taste and a tour of the new LG G3 smartphone. (Woooooo! And now you know what prompted this post.)
There are also Jack the Ripper tours (not a surprise, but could be fun to go on during daylight as a Name of the Star pilgrimage type of thing — YA >>>> true crime), and Frog Tours (the fuck?) — wait, no, they’re duck tours. My point remains that there’s a lot of weird stuff that are somehow staples in London and I had no idea they even existed.
BONUS! There’s a statue in the skyline graphic on the Westminster borough signs of a dude holding an elephant by the trunk. I kid you not. I’ll get a proper picture of that sometime. I’ve only ever spotted it from a moving bus — where once again I was more concerned with keeping my luggage from rolling down the aisle. It’s in the Westminster skyline, so it has to mean something, right? But no one I’ve asked (no longtime Londoner I’ve asked) has ever heard of it, and it was only built last year. That tidbit of trivia was so hard to find I’m trying to pull it up on google and it doesn’t seem to be coming up anymore. Did I make this up inside my head?
… I found it! I FOUND IT. Dunamis. The dude has a gold cone on its head. Okay, Park Lane, okay.
London, y’all. Bless its little heart.