Friday, February 12, 2010

London days #2: The big city hits me

Confessions of a small town boy
I've often summed up Glasgow as "big enough to be cosmopolitan, but small enough so that you can encompass the city as an individual instead of getting lost in it, as in, eg. London." This long-held viewpoint took a knock after the last time I expressed it- to someone I met during my recent trip to Prague.

Back in Glasgow shortly thereafter I was listening to BBC Radio 4 in the kitchen, as I do. It'll've been Front Row I was listening to, because that's the mid-evening arts show that often accompanies my cooking. I was struck by one of those sudden realisations of something you've always known but never quite fully understood: in this case, that pretty much all of the arts and culture discussed in Front Row is London-based; and that certainly little or none of it hails from Glasgow.

These recent days in London have left that sense of the richness of that small northern city more threadbare still. The maelstrom that was mid-evening London outside Liverpool St. underground on Tuesday night swept over me like a drenching in a tropical storm. Barely recovered from the sheer buzz I immediately noticed the incredible ethnic diversity, which strikes me as being qualitatively on a whole different level from that of Glasgow, a pretty multicultural city itself.
Whatever truth might attach to my notion of the individual and the urban space, there must surely be surely be emergent properties of simple scale in respect of which Glasgow cannot but stand in London's shadow. Forever? I don't know, but such is the logic of the thought.

The world on our doorstep
And so this afternoon I take a stroll up the Mile End in search of an internet cafe. As ever, I find myself admiring the famous London brickwork, and more of what it is that people love about this city impresses itself upon me: even if it's a bit run down, it's just so beautiful to look at.

Then I hit the Mile End. Again the sheer splendour of humanity in this multicultural mecca delights the senses. I find myself in Burdett Road, heading for the internet cafe past a cornucopia of little ethnic grocers and cafes. I find a Mediterranean cafe where I just know I'm going to take a late lunch after my spell on the web. That lunch turns out to be a simple Mediterranean salad and some delicious concoction of fruit juice and honey. This is heaven. I think I might go back tomorrow.

To the heart of the metropolis
The evening begins with a rendezvous with Mike to pay a visit to the Forbidden Planet Megastore in Shaftesbury Avenue. Frakk me but this place is huge! Both of Glasgow's comic stores could fit inside no bother, probably with room for our 2 FLGS to boot. I've never seen so many comics, TPBs and sundry other geek paraphenalia in one place before. I am mesmerised, and mourning my limited budget. Still, I pick up 4 shiny new TPBs to add to my already overburdened shelves back home; including volumes 2, 3 and 4 of Girls, volume 1 of which I'd picked up in Borders' closing down sale last year.

Jo's left work and is on her way to meet us for dinner at this point, but we've just got time to sneak in a visit to the Orc's Nest, central London's famous games store. It's small but well stocked, and I like the industrial styling of the interior. The owner* [see below] explains to me that this a restyling after 10 years of a Tolkienesque/dungeon vibe. I control my self indulgent impulses (limited luggage space might've had as much to do with this as fiscal prudence I confess) and limit myself to picking up a copy of issue 2 of Ancible, the new F&SF gaming magazine. Independent adventure gaming magazines had a chequered history even before the web questioned their very validity, so I can only wish this new venture well.

Dinner takes us to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where I've been assured I'll find a burger that'll make up for my voluble disenchantment with the quality of the fare in the global franchises. I'm not disappointed. Not only do I get to sink my teeth into a blue cheese burger every bit as good as Tuesday night's pizza; but I also suck up a top class chocolate milk shake and eat my way through a great pile of fries. The pleasure revisits me even as I write. Of course, GBK is nowhere to be seen in dear old Glasgow.

And that, dear readers, was my cold February Thursday in London town. Tomorrow we game. ;)

Cheesy self publicist that I am, I sent a link to this post to the Orc's Nest. The owner replied to inform me that he wasn't in the shop yesterday, and has disclaimed all responsibilty for events that did, did not, might or might not have transpired on the premises. I guess I'm just going to have to redirect that lawsuit then. :0)

London days
- #1: I hit the big city
- #3: We hit the gaming table, again
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