I'm writing this from London, from a hotel bed just after 6 AM. I'll be staying with friends most of the time I'm here, but wanted a couple of nights in crisp white sheets to sleep off the jet lag and find my feet in this old town. And the ACE is in my old stomping ground of Shoreditch, and they always do such a nice job of things. I first came to London when I was 18, for a three month holiday and ended up staying four years. I was having a drink with friends at a pub in Hoxton yesterday, a beautiful old British pub with real pints and wood paneling and picnic seats out on the Broadway Market where we watched all the hipsters go by on their bicycles. It was grey but bright and just springtime-enough not to wear a coat. I was talking about how different London was, East London especially, fifteen years ago. We laughed as I pointed out that I travelled with a walkman and had only just got a hotmail address, that I didn't get a mobile for almost two years. It was a different world and a different way of being. But it still feels like yesterday, as well as so damn long ago.
London is so easy, so blissful for me. I know how to get everywhere and all the good places to go. I know which laneways in Covent Garden are best for getting to the National Gallery and all the side streets off Brick Lane. It's like all the hard work has been taken out of travelling and it's just amazing. This morning I'm hiring a Tokyobike from the hotel and riding up to London Fields to have breakfast at Violet Cakes and I can't wait.
On Sunday I landed early and took myself straight off to the gallery, bought some new jeans from Liberty, and had a late lunch of viognier, perfectly-simple-in-season asparagus, some cuttlefish and soda bread at St John Bread and Wine (all very understated old-school British). I spent yesterday morning at St Paul's Cathedral, my all-time very favourite place in the world. I used to go on my day off to listen to the evensong and marvel at the space, the detail, the tradition. I lit a candle for my grandmother, who isn't well at the moment, and hoped for her to know the strength and love she has given to us all. Walking across the Thames to the TATE Modern afterwards, I looked down to Tower Bridge and Butler's Wharf where I used to walk most days. The tide was out and I could see the heavy stones and debris the city washed up. And as it was a bank holiday I got to have not only afternoon wines with my friend Ness, but a lovely walk along the canal, some overdue catch-ups and way too much good food at Pizza East.
I head down the coast in a few days, the grey English seaside and proper fish and chips are imminent.