I was stuck. I was on the bus, a friend had invited me to what sounded like a glittering intellectual evening at a literary salon in Shoreditch, and I was not moving forward. I’d been on this bus for nearly an hour and probably could have walked as far as we’d gotten. As the time for the salon to start drew nigh, it became clear that I wasn’t going to make it.
I wasn’t the only one growing frustrated by our continued stillness. Despite TFL’s insistence that the driver will not open the doors other than at designated stops for our safety, he had already taken pity on a couple people. Up a street to my left I could see a sign for the underground glowing in the distance. I didn’t know which one, but I knew it could point me towards home. The driver, bless him, let me out into the cool night air. As I descended into the stuffy uncomfortableness of the Tube, I reflected on how I’d travelled for an hour only to end up going further back than where I started. A bit like life when it is going badly. I did get to hear someone playing Bad Romance on the accordion, however, which mitigated the annoyance somewhat.
Luckily I was reminded the very next night of some of the many joys I take living in London. The clocks have changed now; I walk home in darkness of an evening. The onset of darker winter evenings isn’t something I normally celebrate, but there are a few things that make it worthwhile.
Like walking through Russell Square and catching a glimpse of the moon over the rooftops, London plane trees shivering in the crisp autumn breeze while the fountain burbles quietly, happily, continuously, lit from within. From there I walk on past the British Museum. Inside all is dark but the accent lighting leaks through the windows, illuminating things at odd angles in the same way as Christmas candles in windows from my childhood.
The lions that flank the back door relax there regally (and slightly camply, one paw folded over the other). I can see the display cases, their treasures ensconced within. The urge is strong within me to find a way in, a secret path into a world of secret treasures that, however briefly, could be mine and mine alone.
I round the corner of the Senate House Library, glorious in its own way. I prefer it in the morning, however: I sometimes cut through it on the way to work. Not because it saves time, but because I get to walk past all the spots where it was used for various films. Principally in Jeeves and Wooster, where it was used as a double for Bertie’s New York residence. Back through Russell Square in daylight, where I make a point of stepping on the crackling plane tree bark. Past the fin-de-siecle majesty of the Hotel Russell, down through Queen Square with its tiny statue of a cat to commemorate a much-beloved neighbourhood resident. It is a new day.