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I walked over all London today. I started in the west, near Heathrow, and took the runways in a stride. The M3 to my right, I followed the M4 into the city. Hampton Court Palace was delineated by its avenues and expanse. The London Eye was an ellipse leaning over the river, pointing to the rectangle of Parliament across the water. What skyscrapers London has were as nothing, as indistinct beneath my feet as any other building. Buckingham Palace is framed by parks, and Regent's Park expands beyond it, to the north. Cockfosters was in shadow, but the Lea Valley suddenly defined the city's northern reaches. The Lea River suddenly made sense to me, its dams and estuaries, swamps and diversions, a vast framework of desolation and greenery.

The Docklands was full of landmarks, the curve of the river defining the Isle of Dogs and making clear the rest. Mudchute Farm was a smudge of green, the collation of Blackheath and Greenwich Park a few footfalls wide. The lines of City Airport were not far beyond, and the white circle of the Millennium Dome. I walked further, to the Deptford Crossing, thronged by Bluewater and neighborhoods and, passing beyond the M25 at last, came to the beginnings of the Thames estuary. A throng of boats teemed the riverway, docks cutting its edges. At last I stook by a striking military installation, a fortified island. Current? Historic? From my height, I could not tell.

Fields of green and brown, smudges of red roofs. I no longer know the parks and motorways of south London as once I did. Ordered in streets and neighborhoods, I could no longer decipher its cities and towns. But there, a row of trees, and here, a curve of stream. Fields and farms, quarries and towns. There is life and green and emptiness within the M25's encircling beltway.

The top of London's City Hall offers good views of the city every way but west. An ever-widening stairway spirals down from its ninth-story summit, a ribbon exploring the atrium which brings sunlight to the government offices. The stairway winds down to a theater, a meeting room, an auditorium of purple. But beneath the flood of that auditorium, down in the building's basement, lies all of London, stretched out in detailed carpeting, the city at the heart of the hall.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 3rd, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
....and boy are my feet tired!
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 4th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
We walked from one side of the M25 to the other and it was as a mere 12 steps to us! And Iain bestrode the Thames like a Colossus.

Seriously, if you ever get a chance to go to the City Hall, don't miss the basement level. Best. Floorcovering. EVER.
Feb. 3rd, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
Nice description. But would that Londoners had their own proper City Hall returned to its intended usage - banners challenging the comfortable MPs across the river included.

I lived just inside the M25 for quite a few years. The river to the west is fringed with green for a long way in towards the centre.
Feb. 5th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
What was old city hall like?
Feb. 6th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
You know it - it's this building, next to the London Eye. During the Thatcher years, before she destroyed the GLC and local government for Londoners for a while, they used to have a huge banner across the front with a daily total on it of how many Londoners were out of work. As it faces straight across the river to The House of Commons, it irked her just a little. Probably why she abolished the Metropolitan Councils, even.

I tried to find a pic of the famous banner, but here's one of Red Ken and the Hall with a different banner, the day they closed the GLC.
Feb. 4th, 2007 09:44 am (UTC)
cor, it's Tilbury Fort, innit, guvn'r? That's what it look like from upstairs.
Feb. 5th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
Let's go visit! It's an English Heritage site.
Feb. 4th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
OK -- really? or metaphorically?
Feb. 5th, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
Neither. A very fine, clear satellite image of all London is imprinted on the floor covering of the basement level of City Hall. I'm bad at guessing at dimensions - 40 by 50 feet?
Feb. 4th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
Must have been a heck of a lot warmer in London than it's been in Toronto right now.

Feb. 5th, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
So very true. It's been around 6-8 degrees C most days lately. The daffodils are greening.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )