The London Diaries – First Impressions
We couldn’t stand each other as kids even though her mum and my dad were siblings. Thankfully, she stayed in London, and we hardly ever interacted back then except for the customary phone calls on special occasions. And then we grew up. We each figured that the other wasn’t so bad after all. Later, our marriages changed it all. We were bound by our respective twenty-two twelve. We’ve witnessed each other’s life from afar, and over the years our bond kept growing. She visited me more often than I did. Well, I’d always make it a point to meet her if she was in the city, but I was yet to travel to her home. Years came and went, plans got made and then got cancelled. Finally, in the summer of 2016, we decided on a European holiday. And London was our first stop. After an elaborate visa process, the resident gods of the United Kingdom, convinced that we’d return to our mundane lives, granted us the permission to visit London. And we couldn’t wait for May to arrive.
London at first glance
The first thing you notice when you step out of the airport are the skies. London skies are like a vast canvas that changes colours even as you are admiring it. And fortunately, no concrete jungles are marring the view. The long day could take some getting used to as daylight shines bright even at 9 pm. On the luckier side, you get time to do more. One peculiar thing that caught my eye were aircraft trails high up in the air. And so many planes at one point of time rocketing off in different directions. Apparently, the large volume of air traffic during the day is due to the restriction on scheduled flights between 11 pm and 4.30 am at Heathrow to ensure a restful sleep for residents. Pretty impressive, eh? And the jet trails are condensation trails that occur when the water from the jet exhaust meets with the cold air, condenses and freezes into ice crystals. British weather is ideal for these contrails, as they are known. We live, and we learn. (Thanks, brother-in-law 😀 )
May is a fantastic time to visit London as the temperatures are just right and the flowers are in full bloom. And for people like my mum and I who use every possible space in our balconies to nurture greens, this was manna from heaven. Cherry blossoms, daffodils, tulips and daisies adorned homes and gardens unabashedly. You could almost hear them invite you for a cuppa. The melodramatic me almost broke into song and dance. Almost. 😀
While we are talking about homes and gardens, London Victorian homes can be quite deceptive. For starters, the edifices all look the same. (That’s probably one of the main reasons why you see so much of the skies out there.) And secondly, they appear to be out of some fairytale so much so that you almost expect a gnome to answer a doorbell. But once you are in, you realise just how immodest the homes are. You’d never guess they’d be that capacious with multiple rooms and a backyard, too. My cousin tells me the bay windows are a giveaway of the architectural period and are used to date houses among other finer things like patterned bricks, roof lines and terraces to name a few. Her home that you see at the bottom right corner was built during the 1930s apparently. Awesome, no?
From the homes, we venture to the streets of London that are abundantly talented. Every nook and corner you’d find an artist, a musician, a living statue, a singer, a band or a dancer. The list of street artists is never-ending. Such a delightful sight, I tell you. They perform their art for free; your appreciation can be dropped in the boxes placed before them. We were only too happy to applaud. I wish we could bring this culture of respectability for street artists back home and jazz up our roads and corners just like them.
These guys sang the iconic ‘Stand by Me’ with such finesse that I had to stop and shoot them. London streets are full of such serendipitous moments. I have fallen in love with that place, and I am only getting started. Come back for more as I take you on a virtual trip, soon.
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