A trip from the periphery to the centre – from rural doldrums, where the news of the day revolves around a sheepdog gone feral and attacking lambs, to many-layered historic cities brimming with people and culture.
Walking down streets that were once my home from home, now the domain of a younger generation – but the great horse chestnut tree squeezed into the lane by the Lamb and Flag still looks the same, a mass of sweet-scented blossom, and a cluttered student bedroom feels more natural than the gathering of proud parents in the college dining hall, making polite conversation, under the portraits of dead dons, and listening, still politely, while the latest Warden makes his pitch.
Into the true metropolis – walking through morning quiet with a knowledgeable companion, we stop to admire the architecture of the BBC, and wind down back streets, narrow alleys between old workshops, unchanged for who knows how long. This day’s reunion is completed outside the old-fashioned art shop, three of us now go in to buy pigment (displayed in vivid jars), brushes, and charcoal, before going on to the British Museum to wander slowly with the multilingual tourist crowds.
After the museum, we find the pub, lined with cut glass mirrors and old wood, no music or television to spoil the Victorian interior. A couple come in with two small dogs – their quivering Italian greyhound eventually relaxes and delicately deigns to sit on my lap, while the eternal conversation of dog owners goes on over his head. Then the pub fills up with solid tattooed men in dark suits. As the beer flows and the volume rises, we eventually glean that they are Orangemen, fresh from a St George’s Day parade, jolly and flirtatious for now, but it seems a good time to move on.
One more leg, down to the river and across to the South Bank. London looks splendid in the sun.