Last Saturday, I spent the day in our glorious capital to see what the "greatest city in the world" has to offer visitors. This is the second trip I have made to London this year after an earlier trip to Lords; I seem to be getting soft on the old cockney hometown in my old age
After arriving at Euston after 1 hour and 45 minutes, a time which has not reduced and had perhaps even lengthened since the late 1980's/ early 90's, we walked to the British Museum in a vain attempt to see the current Terracotta Army exhibition. Unfortunately they only release 500 tickets each day at 9am, and as we had got there a bit later it was of course sold out. We decided to have a look around the rest of the museum which contains one of the largest collections of stolen goods in the world. The exhibits were stolen, plundered and borrowed, taxed, teefed and generally robbed from across the whole of the known world at the height of the Empire, and they even have a room celebrating this. They had the cheek to ask for a £4 donation; obviously I did not provide one, as crime should not pay.
I was expecting to be asked to leave a donation at St. Paul's Cathedral as well, but they had the cheek to charge an admission fee because there was not a service going on. All museums should now be free, but St Paul's get round this by claiming they are a place of worship. As a Catholic, I did not buy this excuse as I did not see anything that resembled any Papal authorisation.
A slight detour took us into the City of London, which is tiny compared to the City of Birmingham. Here I realised Londoners love living in the past, as their garbage trucks carried the title of cleanest city 2004., a title which was won in March by Birmingham. Perhaps they lost it because they failed to clean up such an out of date notice.
A walk across the (previously) wobbly Millennium bridge led us to a pub where we had some lunch and then we went to the Tate Modern. The most surreal exhibit of the day was actually in the pub beforehand however, where England beat the Wobblies in the Rugby World Cup. Until I got home and checked Teletext, I was a bit worried that we had eaten lunch in the Tate Modern and the game was actually a piece of Modern Art where England's victory represents the dreams of our youth, before we are crushed with the reality of an Australian victory in the grown-up world. Gladly, I was mistaken.
As dusk arrived we "flew" on the British Airways London Eye, which despite its sponsor was running pretty efficiently and not affected by any strikes. There are some great views of London and the surrounding landmarks from the wheel which I exploited to the full by taking out my trusty digital camera and snapping away to my heart's content, as were my friends and fellow travelers in the pod. According to some people the police would have been justified in stopping me to check that I was not planning some atrocity because I
A quick tube ride across town took us to Covent Garden where in traditional London style we were ripped of for dinner. A dash back to Euston left me back in Birmingham before midnight.
I realised on my day out that London is a city on the move. I don't think it is the greatest city in the world yet, but some of the buildings that are planned are certainly moving it in the right direction. After the doldrums of the Thatcher years, where much money was made but few iconic buildings were build, London is finally starting to fulfill the potential it has. Maybe one day they will even deserve the title of greatest city in the world.
Not yet though. And you'll never get a Brummie admitting it.