My First Week in Britain, London

18 08 2004

I arrived in London on the 10th of August and tonight is my last night at the London City Hotel on Borough High Street. Between attending to work and watching the Athens Olympics on television, I haven’t had much chance to see the city. It does appear a little strange that this is my first visit to this great city and yet I haven’t been motivated sufficiently to discover what it has to offer. Since I am going to be in the UK for a couple of years at least, I know that I have enough time to see London and more. There has been some sort of lethargy but I know that once I start travelling, the road would be long. I feel that I am about to start on something great.

I’ll be moving to Fleet, Hampshire, early tomorrow morning to start my first project. In London, my office is located at the Counting House along the South Bank of the Thames. It is an old building. I am told that this is where goods used to be unloaded, counted and dispatched to the rest of London. Many buildings in London are preserved only on the outside while interiors have been changed to modern settings.

London Bridge I suppose has historic significance but it is dull and boring as I see it now. The Tower Bridge has more character. So does the London Eye which is now an icon of London skyline. One afternoon I had lunch at a typical London pub with centuries-old wooden furniture and rafters. Thankfully the food wasn’t that old.

Away from the South Bank, a visit to the British Museum was time well-spent. A second visit is necessary, at least to fully appreciate the gallery dedicated to Enlightenment, the 18th century intellectual movement in Britain. The second noteworthy visit of the weekend was to the 17th century creation of Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s Cathedral. Hardly English and typically European, it may fade in comparison to St Peter’s Church in Rome. I haven’t seen the latter and so I was awed by these magnificent interiors, the high dome, arches of rich flowered coffers gilded in gold and an almost perfect harmony of these elements in a quiet setting. There is a tablet that commemorates the contribution of the Indian National Army (INA), 1746-1947. So far as my limited knowledge of history goes, the INA was formed during the Second World War. It is also difficult to understand why this tablet stands in Britain when the INA under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose fought against the British Empire. To my great surprise there is an image of gods and demons churning the ocean for nectar and a marble bust on which is written “Menu” (when actually it meant to say “Manu”, the Hindu god of law).

A typical summer's day in London's parks

A typical summer's day in London's parks

The most interesting part of Saturday evening was a visit to the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. All one needs is a topic and a loud voice. An audience will automatically gather. It could be entertaining to the bored, intellectual to the sceptic, thought-provoking to the curious and interesting to the tourist. I walked through three major parks of London (St James’ Park, Green Park and Hyde Park) but a more relaxed stroll will offer better enjoyment.

Sometime during the week I visited a cemetery at Bunhill Fields. Here are buried three well-known writers, John Bunyan, William Blake and Daniel Defoe. Perhaps there are many more eminent personalities who are buried here. If London is a great city, a city of much history and interest, it comes from the people who have actively contributed to its fame and endurance. The past may have come and gone but the thoughts and ideas remain to shape and influence all that is now and later.

A third of the Asian population in Britain is in London and thus it was no surprise that on 15th of August the community celebrated the London Mela at Gunnersbury Park. The significance of this day in the annual calendar is known to every Indian but I am not sure if the Mela was in celebration of that historic event. The second generation of immigrants are certainly British and wouldn’t care much for the land of their parents or grandparents. The Mela was an assortment of performances, games, food and cultural stalls. It was massive and I have not seen anything like it even during diwali in Singapore. In more ways than one, the further you are from home the closer you get.




One response

13 08 2008
Fari B


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