A passage to London this Fall
Like many other big cities in the first world countries, London can be described as a global village with enormous influx of immigrants and attractions to blend of cultures. Perhaps the paramount description it may imply as one of the world’s leading financial centers, great railway systems and its global position to various disciplines is the flaming experience that makes the city of London a magnet to all peoples. It is, however, one of the defining reasons that provides a surge of pride and delight to anyone who finds a path around the regimen of British relationship with cultures they represent.
I came to London this mid of October 2009 with excitement and a sustained challenge from my continuing interest to see and experience life’s movements in the city. This was actually my second time to visit this place since I first came here in July 2001. It was as much a conclusion as a beginning, a significant holiday at fall and a tale of adventures suffused with color and learning experience.
The nursery rhyme song ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ was an enduring reminder for me as I always thought of England’s richness in history, culture, art, music, literature, and other disciplines. The local Briton accent with that fusion of Cockney Rhyming was something that really fascinated me as if they spoke with reverence in each word. Shakespearean plays portrayed in theaters catapulted be back on stage to reminisce how the performers articulated their lines. I also had the opportunity to visit anew some historical landmarks considered as major sights in the city. These are the following: Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Changing the Guard, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral. There are also other attractions such as Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Queen’s House, St James’s Palace, London Dungeon, London Planetarium, London Zoo, Madame Tussaud’s and other Museums and Art Galleries.
An English friend of mine who lives in London accompanied me to see other places like the Canary Wharf which is the tallest building in England, the Covent Garden Piazza, the Piccadilly Circus and of course, the Trafalgar Square where we took a score of pictures. Along with that, we also came to see the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, and Lloyds of London insurance market. One thing that impressed me while traveling the city is the London Underground. I found it as the best public transport with extensive networks to other places nationwide. I also found that there was a high-speed Eurostar trains that link St Pancras International Station with Lille, Paris, and Brussels which only takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was really amazing to know how London Transport could draw tourists from across the world, along with those red double-decker buses, black cabs and the modern tram network known as Tramlink, based around Croydon in South London.
It was very convenient for us to go from one place to another as London Transport was like a split second and you are already there. Trains run every 15 minutes. I remember when I landed in Heathrow Airport, I took the Piccadilly Line tube, got off Hammersmith (District Line) and took Victoria Line that passed through Stockwell and got off Oval which was just a walking distance to Brixton Road where I stayed. Travel cards were necessary to get about in different parts of London. Ticket offices or self-service machines were available in most stations. Trains ran starting as early as 5:30 a.m. till 1:00 a.m. on week nights. The only choice beyond all-night transport was night bus or cab. Usually most buses passed through Trafalgar Square which was like the point of reference when one was not sure which bus to get. The traditional London black cabs reminded me of cars driven for funerals with a sign For Hire and a white license plate on the back.
Perhaps the climate for concerts and musical events in the Royal Albert Hall or Cadogan Hall was one of my regrets for not being able to see one of them, along with entertainment around Leicester Square or to the first and original Hard Rock Cafe and Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles recorded many of their songs. I did not have time though to watch and visit these places. However, I was able to walk through Chinatown district (in Soho) with my English friend and dined in one of the Chinese Buffet restaurants.
Lovely windows for shopping spree especially on Oxford Street where I found so many shops and department stores that somehow reminded me of signature products for fashion accessories and other stuffs that came from across the world.
The high-rise buildings like the 1980s skyscraper Tower 42, the Lloyd’s building, the “Gherkin”, One Canada Square and the BT Tower in Fitzrovia were characterized with certain architectural styles and for me they evoked another meaning to symbolize the height of anyone’s aspiration to reach his vertical mobility in life. As a visionary and drawn to stand up against injustice, I had that inner return to the power beyond – God. I was humbled with these buildings towering over me. I thought it was another world, another bustling city suffused with material wealth and luxury. I had a good time seeing these attractions but with a deep sense of sanctuary within, I came to recall the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers in New York were attacked by terrorists. Yet it was still vivid for many Americans especially those families and friends of the victims.
While sightseeing was the driving rhythm in my mobility around the city, this statement somehow led me to further reflection: ‘if necessity is the mother of invention, then it would seem that a recession, when needs abound, might push people to embrace innovation.’ And it’s true as economy crawled into another episode to embrace the challenges ahead. At least the main thing that could be done was to envision the country’s great strength in certain areas as a source of power and inspiration to others. Like a book which is on the must-read list for anyone who appreciates history, culture, geography, or social development at any level in society, a rewarding account of public transport in London allowed me to go to places where I wanted to go. That was a positive response to my immediate need to explore the city. In this case though, I was able to take a giant step back and assess how I am reacting to places I had visited.
From the earliest days of my insertion to another culture since I left my home country in the late 80s to the events of today, my real goal has been to build bridges of opportunities for a continuing growth as a human person, to be open to the historical movements of various peoples across continents and nationalities, to give reason to hope and understand our sense of interconnectedness. And these generally require the ups and downs of life, human claims to acceptance and sacrifice. As Frederick Douglas once said, ‘if there is no struggle there can be no progress.’ And I think it could be better known for saying that life and traveling can be equated with this expression, ” you never know.”
Having gone through the ebbs and flows, the wefts and warps, and the prism of human needs, in my own little way, my mantra still remains the same. And that’s basically to think beyond mere platitudes for meaningful answers to what the future holds. My interactions with various cultures and the role that I have to play especially in times of difficulties draws me to find that constant need for discovery. Countless situations have given me the possibilities to discern and integrate my faith principles to that continuing pursuit of my life.
As a mental compass focused on my visit in London, I thought of a similar spark of human vulnerability and the great deal of having a vision and priorities at hand. It was clear, though, that the new wave of modern technology and the entry of moral values into the labor market are slowly changing our understanding of what is essential in this world and who we are as individuals in conversation with the world today. I came to brace for further failures in my life but still I continued to hope with a new eye for progress. And that was like a cyclical nature of being human trying to avoid chronology but allowing God’s time to lead me.
London’s many facets evoked some images of truth and beauty which enabled me to reflect on life’s legendary wisdom of pains and joys, successes and failures. Each of them was like a memorial marker with some spectacular past and poignant memories. My own life had that moral comparison, too. With history and story to tell, with values and traditions, with a sense of identity, purpose, and meaning, indeed, they were like my memorial markers defined in the mystery of being human. The depth it symbolized was a measure of a flaming heart. It was like a source of strengthening, an impetus to witness to others as life goes on. Samuel Johnson once said, ‘if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.’ And I think he makes sense as he gave us his memory a jog.