My visit to London is rapidly coming to a close. My original intention was to be here for some two weeks and then go to Florence with my sister. She would stay for a couple of weeks and I would stay on alone for a couple of months.
Alas, the best laid plans etc . Shortly before I arrived in London it was thought that my sister had suffered a heart attack. So in the first few days we spent time at the local hospital having a barrage of tests. Nothing moves fast in this big, over crowded city and so she is only today receiving the results of these tests from her GP. Several more tests were called for which entailed waiting for the letters of appointment, as they were in two different hospitals, and to make life complete she was advised not to fly until the results were all in.
At this time she is still waiting for the final test to be carried out and this will happen next week.
So it was decided that I should go to Florence and she will join me when she is cleared to fly.
Meantime we have been enjoying my native city again. Not as a tourist because I was born and brought up here, but as a returning visitor.
The most surprising thing of all is the changes wrought to the East End by last year’s Olympics. Stratford that was once a really derelict and run down area has been transformed. During World War II, the area suffered severe bombing damage. Industrial decline followed, accelerated by the closure of the docks from the 1960s onward. And the ethnically mixed area suffered from high unemployment, a labor force with low skills and crowded housing.. But all this changed once London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.
Where once were disused factories now stand tall apartment blocks,
the University of East London and student housing to accompany it, a large Westfield Shopping Mall and a new transport hub. This has been good news for most of the people living in the area.
There has of course, been controversy.
The Orbit sculpture and observation tower has been praised and denigrated by the public. It was designed by artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond and stands 114.5 metre (376 feet). It is apparently the largest public sculpture in Britain. Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the South Plaza area of the Park (in which Orbit is positioned) is under significant construction – and will re-open to visitors in April 2014.
The Olympic Stadium is still being fought over by rival football clubs who want to use it as their base. Currently the has been awarded to West Ham but Leyton Orient are claiming that exclusive use rights should not have been given and that these two East End clubs should have equal access to the facility.
The London Aquatics Centre. An indoor facility with two 50-metre (160-foot) swimming pools and a 25-metre (82-foot) diving pool.
Some of the residents of course, were moved on to make way for this huge redevelopment, and the redevelopment is still going on. I saw a sign advertising a shopping and entertainment centre of 1.9 million square feet.. Wow!
And the changes are not restricted to the East End. The City is changing. Where once were old office blocks now stand huge glass monoliths that do little to differentiate my home town from many other I have visited around the world.
But the old favourites remain. The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, The British Museum in Great Russell Street, The Tower of London, St Paul’s and of course, Parliament and Big Ben. These are all a must see on any visit I make to London.
And of course no visit to London would be complete without the street markets. I have written of these in an earlier post. The World famous Portobello Market in Notting Hill (you probably saw the film Notting Hill staring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant), the local markets at Roman Road and Ridley Road, Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, the antique market at Islington and on and on,
So as my time here comes to an end and once again I say farewell to family and friends, I am a trifle sad and of course, nostalgic. But I have my adventure in Florence to look forward to and of course, I shall be back here again after that before taking that long haul flight back to the other side of the world.
“My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can”
Cary Grant, 1904 – 1986 ,
English stage and Hollywood film actor.
- Reuters Video: London Orbit Tower provides Olympic view (englishblog.com)