One can hardly spend much time in London before one starts noticing the preponderance of blue plaques. The blue plaque scheme is run by English Heritage. The plaques represent people from the past who are well known or deserve recognition, and “link the people of the past with the places of the present.” The scheme has been going on since the 1860s.
Apparently, there are now over 900 plaques all over London (someone has actually taken the time to create a map of where all of them are located). Not all of them are blue, and not all of them represent British people; there is a “blue” (actually, lead) plaque outside Benjamin Franklin’s last remaining home, in Craven Street near Trafalgar Square. The plaques are a strong reminder of the ways in which the past and present often overlap.
Yesterday, after working all morning, I took the Underground to Green Park and went along Piccadilly to visit Hatchard’s bookshop and Waterstone’s.
I went through Piccadilly Circus and passed the Japan Centre, a food hall that exclusively sells Japanese food and other products. I went inside and found myself among about 30 or 40 Japanese tourists, all of whom were delighted with what was on offer.
I also saw Their Finest at a movie theater in Covent Garden; if you haven’t seen it, it’s an excellent film about propaganda filmmakers during WWII (starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy). Great characters, setting, and story, and a fitting companion for the book I’m currently reading: London War Notes. The author, Mollie Panter-Downes, kept a fortnightly column in the New Yorker documenting her experiences in London during the war for the benefit of American readers. It’s an excellent read.
Wandering around Soho in the rain, I found a nice little Indian restaurant that served very good lamb korma, butter chicken, and naan bread. My eyes were too big for my stomach, and I took much of it home with me for dinner tonight.
Samuel Johnson (the jowelly gentleman in the picture above) famously once said, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Edith Wharton echoed the sentiment in The Buccaneers, saying “London’s London, and London life the most exciting and interesting in the world, and once you’ve got the soot and fog in your veins you simply can’t live without them.”
I’ve always loved London–its vibrancy, its excitement, the feeling that you can take the Tube almost anywhere, randomly pick a stop, and explore whatever that part of the city has to offer. It’s been six long years since I was here last, so four or five months ago, I decided to book a stay in London for an extended period of time to really soak in the atmosphere of the city again. My flight takes off this evening! I hope to use this space frequently to document my travels, and to explore a lot of different things–literature, history, theater, art, lowbrow, highbrow, cool things I see, etc., so keep checking back!