London, England: Inglin swings, and more

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Roger Miller: England Swings
London, England: Inglin swings, and more

With due respect to Dr Johnson who said, “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life“, he was speaking before the chaos of modern life: Tube delays; pubs with pokie machines and football on the flat screen; young bankers with few lagers in them who think they are East End ‘ard men . . .

It’s possible to be very tired of London.

That said, no journey through life is complete without having engaged it.

But engaged with what?

Here are some suggestions.

IMG_0217The Thames: Most people go over it or under it, but this waterway is the life of the old city.

On a sunny day take a trip from Westminster Millennium Pier down to Richmond (get off at Kew and go through the gardens before getting a bus to Richmond) and have your camera ready.

The commentary is illuminating, full of historic information as much as pointing out the apartment Robbie Williams owns and where the Beatles filmed a famous scene for Help!.

At Richmond have a pint in a riverside pub then walk along the bank to the nearby Petersham Hotel for dinner.

Historic, great views, superb food from award-winning chef Alex Bentley, and the place where Mick Jagger was photographed having lunch in 2002 when it was announced he was to be Sir Michael.

If it’s good enough for Mick . . .

As a day trip this can’t be beat -- and a taxi will take you to the Richmond Tube station for a quick trip back into central London.

A tip: Arrive early at the pier to get your ticket, it can book out quickly, and book for the exceptional Petersham. If it’s a lunch there you prefer on weekdays and Saturdays a two-course lunch is $44 (Sunday, three courses $75)

IMG_0034The O2 Centre: Formerly the ill-fated Millennium Dome on the Greenwich Peninsula to the east, this massive structure -- in increasingly interesting surroundings as apartments and sculpture (right) pops up around it -- is worth a day trip.

The centre is home to the British Music Experience where the display cases start at the end of the jazz era and move through the skiffle craze of the Fifties when one in nine teenage boys were in a band (a Lonnie Donegan 78rpm owned by John Lennon is included).

Each subsequent decade gets its own room with interactive historical sections, posters and clothing, instruments and of course music.

Here are David Bowie’s handwritten lyrics to Five Years on the Ziggy Stardust album (such juvenile penmanship); guitars owned by the Who’s Pete Townshend and Coldplay’s Chris Martin; to clothes belonging to various Spice Girls, Jimi Hendrix and Ringo Starr. (Jimi and Ringo were tiny).

There’s also an interactive section where you can learn to play guitar, bass and keyboards in simple lessons given by stars.

A tip: Take the Tube to North Greenwich but get the Thames Clipper back along the river. And take money, the shop has memorabilia and cool stuff.

IMG_0107Whitechapel Gallery: In a city full of great galleries this one stands out, not just for the $32 million expansion it recently underwent, but more for the contemporary art on the walls and its history. (Picasso’s Guernica was exhibited here 50 years ago and currently an astonishing tapestry of the same is on display).

The superb Dining Room where top chef Maria Elia (seen on UK television shows such as Great Food Live and Saturday Cooks) has won wide acclaim (fours stars from AA Gill in The Times) is a must for lunch.

A tip: The gallery is beside East Algate Tube station and Brick Lane is just around the corner.

See the art in the morning, have lunch in the gallery restaurant then amble through Brick Lane with its hip bars, old pubs and funky shops (genuine vintage clothing from the days of Flappers, Teddy Boys to Swinging London).

Tea or a drink in the artfully dishevelled Hookah House will let you watch the passing parade.

Or walk along Whitechapel Rd past the massive mosque.

See if you can find the statue to Edward VII “erected from subscriptions raised by the Jewish inhabitants of East London” in 1911.

It’ll probably have a Muslim-owned street stall in front of it.

A metaphor of the changing city.

IMG_0023The Globe Theatre: If this isn’t on your agenda, put aside bad memories of Shakespeare at school and come for a fascinating guided tour through this replica of a theatre from The Bard’s time.

Excellent museum of artefacts and costumes as well -- and you right next to the Tate Modern (right) if you want to be swept up four centuries.

For a small donation at the Tate you get to see some of the most cutting edge art of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the massive building itself is a stunner.

Walk back over the new Millennium Footbridge towards St Paul’s and find the colourful clothing (and more) Joy The Store in Paternoster Row.

A tip: Save some money for The Globe’s gift shop where you can buy the “out damned spot” blood-splattered tea-towel, the “hoods make not monks” Henry VIII hoodie, a calendar of Shakespearean insults and a Capulet coffee cup. You never knew Shakespeare could be so much fun, huh?

IMG_0068Go to Brixton: Multiculturalism doesn’t get much more fun, rowdy and interesting than this suburb south of the river. Wander through Electric Avenue (left when you come of the Tube), poke your nose into old pubs or record shops run by dreadlocked Black British from the Caribbean, or the shops full of Indian saris, religious paraphernalia and food.

Maybe have a genuine Caribbean meal of goat curry, jerk chicken, or the Jamaican national dish of ackee and saltfish at Bamboulas, which is small but fun.

If you dare, have a Guinness Punch (Guinness, condensed milk, cinnamon and nutmeg).

A tip: Get the 139 bus back to central London, the route takes you through suburban Brixton and Kennington, across Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament, past Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards’ Parade, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus . . .

You’ll see London’s diversity out the window, and getting on and off.

If you tire of that, you probably are tired of life.


Thames Cruises:

The Petersham: here

Whitechapel Gallery:

Shakespeare’s Globe:

The O2 and British Music Experience: The O2 is here and go to

Joy The Store: here

Bamboulas in Brixton: here

Walks in London: here

You can get general information on visiting Britain here.

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