Rambling Scotland. But in London…

I lived in London from 1985 – 1992, moving from a sleepy (unexciting) village in Scotland aged 15. I introduced myself to the London suburbs during the birth of rave and acid house parties, somehow managing to land myself the role of floor manager in Next Retail in between the all-nighters and energy drinks.

As my partner is a Londoner and my dad & step-mum, extended family, old school & work friends still live there, we visit fairly frequently doing the usual tourist things in the city and out-with but never realised before how small it is… Ok, a bit unfair to use the word ‘small’ as it does cover 611 square miles but now I’ve actually began to really leave the house, there’s only so much real exploring you can do in a big city. Let me elaborate…

Pete (the partner) is a great one to ‘do’ London with. He was a motorbike courier in his younger day and knew the city intimately: all the lanes, cut throughs, secret lunch time skiving spots etc. He can still fluently recite the A to Z leaving listeners in awe and can take you through the virtual streets once you name a start and finish point. In short, if anyone knows London, it’s this man. Me? I tag along, knowledgeless and happy to be directed either on motorbike, foot, underground train or bus…


Being based in South East London during our stays, just on the edge of Greenwich, it’s a great part of the city to stay in. A very large green to the front of the houses keeps the main road considerately away providing a convenient bus every 10 minutes. You can walk up to the High Street, visit Eltham Palace, jog or cycle around the various sports fields or walk around the newly regenerated Kidbrook Village taking in Sutcliffe park en-route. This most recent visit we wandered around the grounds and buildings of Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site taking in the stunning museums, painted hall, chapel and Royal Observatory.

There was an open stage with David Gray playing that night. The pre-security atmosphere was relaxed and the venue was stunning with the backdrop of an impressive London skyline running along the Thames.

What I like about walking is not sticking to a detailed plan. Going off route should you wish and discover what’s down that path, at the bottom of that hill or what’s on the other side of that massive rock. Yeh, I’m the one holding up the group and you’d be surprised at what was on the other side of that rock… In London, that doesn’t happen. It can’t happen as so many of the old cobbled lanes have been closed off to squeeze in another overpriced flat with a desired postcode.  That shrinks the experience and the scale of the area. You can see everything, no further exploring necessary or possible.

I would love to momentarily go back to ‘Oliver’ times with the dark mysterious lanes although they did seem to encourage prostitutes, murderers and undesirables. Maybe not…

Don’t get me wrong, I love London: the suburbs and in the thick of it but I realise that I need a different mind-set to appreciate the latter. The beauty I seek in the city is in the architecture, reading historical plaques, looking down at the well walked slabs wondering how many foot-steps it took for that erosion, touching a tree or over-painted cast iron bench while walking along the Thames. Visiting markets, smelling the canals, sampling food from every culture imaginable and finding unique charm in each distinctive underground train station. Alternatively, you can ‘sight-see’:  Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Tower Bridge and the like. They are all great to see but that’s all you do. See the sight then move on to the next one.

No you won’t see any hills, streams and massive rocks with secrets on the other side and you will feel insignificant. Everything has been ‘discovered’ and you won’t be the first one to touch the old stone wall. You will be stopped by gates, walls and barriers. You can’t say hello to everyone you pass, or spark a conversation with a stranger. You will be surrounded by people yet still feel alone. No one makes eye contact… Few will even notice your existence. They are too busy with the stress of mortgages and overpriced city living. The city boundary is bulging with buildings, shops, people and Tesco Extras…

And all these factors make England’s huge capital seem so small.


About Rambling Scotland

Driver of Harvey. Walker of the wilds. Quaffeur of Prosecco. ... In that order
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