Midnight in London


Have you ever been so taken in by a place that you would ditch your perfectly sound, normal life to go and live there? Would you be so in love with an era that you would do anything to be transported back to it? Right. Midnight in Paris. And the lesser known fact that I am such a person.

I am an incurable romantic. I love history. I love fantasising. Put all these together and you have a recipe for disaster. No wonder I have ended up as a dreamy eyed retard who lives in the world of fantasies.  If I count the number of hours I have spent reading up and fantasising of bygone eras, it would account for half of my lived life.

How else do I explain my constant fixation with anything that would qualify as ‘old-worldly’?! As a kid sitting in history class and listening to the lectures on times long past, a chill would creep up my spine and I would get goose bumps while I imagined the Kings, Queens, revolutionaries, wars and struggles in flesh and blood. Even after the lecture was long since over and we had gone home I would not be able to get them out of my head and I would read and re-read the text book and dream about them with my eyes wide open. My parents sensing that help was needed would buy me fact books filled with details of historical milestones and I would read them all in one go and ask for more of them. My journalism undergrad degree had a module of history in the first semester and I still remember it as one of the most fulfilling semesters. I would scrounge the University library for history books and encyclopaedias and had created extensive notes that got termed as the ‘Guidebook for 1st sem history’ aka the notes that were photocopied by all my classmates and the succeeding junior batches thrice removed. It was sure fun to watch them all try to make sense of my indecipherable handwriting that got nicknamed the ‘jalebi’ writing.

And did all those antics satisfy my thirst for romance and history? You wish! Outside of class work, I read historic romances, novels with a historic theme or anything that referred to or was set in the days that involved lamps, horses and elaborate dresses. God, this is crazy, I know! But beat this; I was so taken in with the London of Sherlock Holmes, the period dramas of the Bronte sisters and the magic created by Dickens that I quit a job, chucked everything and moved to London to write. (Thank you for the applause and I can hear the soap opera style guffaws too.) There are times when I walk the streets and think, “I wonder how this street would have looked in the 19th century” (This had happened in Delhi too, especially at the Red Fort). My friends have termed me mad, my family is perplexed and I am astonished with the lengths I will go to live my fantasies.

Another place that sends a chill up my spine- Hampi, Karnataka

And then I watched Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s Oscar winning movie and it rang a bell. Actually a siren went off in my head saying ‘wooooo wooooo familiar territory wooooo wooooo’. After watching the movie I am half relieved that I am not as much in love with London as that guy is with Paris to start seeing things but a bit sad that I will not be picked up in an antique car at midnight and be transported back in time to the golden ages to rub shoulders with the literary giants that I look up to. Man, I would give anything to go back in time and meet Conan Doyle, Faulkner, Dickens, Fitzgerald and the like and get my novel looked up by Hemingway! Brrrrrr. I guess from now on every time I walk a street at night I will half hope to be picked up by that ‘time machine’ car.

Midnight in London
Picture courtesy: Timeout London (I guess)

And now I can’t get the jazz out of my head. And I can’t stop looking up the Eurostar prices to Paris. I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to be transported back to Victorian London even if it was for a few hours. Looks like I will have some interesting dreams tonight. Anyway time to hit the bed and before I do that, I might just look up the schedule for the upcoming Shakespeare’s Globe festival. No missing it and yeah I might as well look up the opening time for Warwick castle too (wink wink). And meanwhile let’s sing along with Cole Porter: 🙂

Birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain, the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Fins
Folks in Siam do it – think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines, without means, do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Romantic sponges, they say, do it
Oysters down in oyster bay do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams, ‘gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish, do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it
Though it shocks em I know
Why ask if shad do it – Waiter bring me
“shad roe”

In shallow shoals English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

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London through my eyes


I write this post while looking out of my window at the beautiful sight of snow falling and listening to the not-so-desirable screams of over-excited girls having a snow fight. Anyway to get on with it…I am done with the snow fights and too frozen to the bones to venture outside. So here I am sitting and blogging about my dearest memories of London…

London at first sight

London is one city that blows me away. The more I try to understand, the more it beckons to me with fresh mysteries. Coming from unpredictable, impulsive India, I was first dumbstruck by the order and conformation to rules around the city. A tad bit boring I know 😀 but it’s amazing to watch the systematic flow of traffic with absence of honking and the single file columns on the tube station escalators ( strictly on the right hand side leaving space on the left for the ones in a hurry who march up/down like ants scurrying to a hole – makes me want to tap their shoulders and ask “What’s the big hurry?”).

Read on for a peek into London through my eyes…mostly photographs but you can expect some commentary side-by-side. :p

Big Ben against The London Eye

For those of you with no idea what the Big Ben and The London Eye are (I had no idea about the Eye & vague ideas about Big Ben until I moved to London) here is a crash course:- Big Ben is the nickname of the clock tower bell close to the Parliament houses and it is one of the most famous landmarks in London. If my ‘London walk’ guide is to be believed, it was nicknamed Big Ben because the bloke who was commissioned to build it was a big fella. Moving on to The London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel, one of the tallest in the world on which wide-eyed tourists take a merry ride lasting a loong time while they look at the city spread below.

Too many sculptures I say…!

I also can’t help but remark about the optimum use of historical structures and tourist destinations by the Government. It makes me bug-eyed about the potential India has if the Government decides to take it seriously. I could dare say London has some of the most well maintained historical structures and museums in the world. Add to it the fact that most of the museums and art galleries have no entry fee and you have the perfect cocktail of tourist and local footfalls.

Hampton Court Palace, dated early 1500’s, stands tall & proud till date

I am a history buff and it does not help that am a romantic too. So there you go…I have set myself the not-so-difficult task of visiting every palace/ fort in London. I have so far covered the most publicised ones and will work my way down to the not-so-popular ones over the summer. It sure is an amazingly good pastime to explore chambers where Kings & Queens lived while imagining the pomp and splendour of the olden days.

Tower of London. Let the looks not fool you…this is where the Kohinoor sits caged in a British crown

White Tower built by William The Conqueror in the Tower of London

There were times as a kid when I used to wonder if I would ever get to see the London Sherlock Holmes lived in (I had thought he was real 😀 ) or Charles Dickens’ characters relived. In a way I have but there is a mammoth difference between Dickens’ London and present day London of course. 🙂

It is one of my favourite pastimes to visit landmarks/ buildings connected to the literary characters I hold dear.

The contrast between the old and the new worlds is evident.

Street art: Fallen Telephone boxes, Kingston upon Thames

I have also taken a liking towards visiting sites where popular movies were shot. Try guessing in which movie(s) the locales in the two pictures below figure.

If you were able to guess then bingo you are a genius if not…then you are more of a human being. Ok here’s the answer, these two almost unrecognisable locales figure in different Harry Potter movies. The first picture is the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron (the blue telephone box like building entrance; it is actually an optical shop) and the second is Leadenhall market which is where Diagon Alley was shot. I know this sounds childish, but I actually went on a paid Harry Potter walk and saw the sites above and Ministry of Magic, Gringotts, Platform 9 3/4 etc…

The picture below was taken on a cold windy day from a wobbly bridge called the Millenium Bridge, close to the school where Daniel Radcliffe studied and where a Death eater attack scene of the movie was shot. (This is lame I know…!)

St Paul’s Cathedral as seen from The Millenium Bridge

Oh and I should mention about the Theatre scene in London. One term to describe it: ‘It takes my breath away’. I knew I could not go wrong with Phantom of the Opera, and sure enough, I was captivated. Then of course came the more earthly musicals like Mama Mia! 😀 (I enjoyed theatre in dear old India too but it’s so different here.)

I am not a person who is into art and architecture, but this city has some cannot-ignore buildings that leave me with a gaping mouth.

London Gherkin against St Mary Axe, the egg shaped skyscraper against an Old church. It is built on the site of a historic building destroyed in a WW bombing

The inside-out Llyods Building where every utility feature like stairs, lifts, heating etc are on the outside

Btw did I mention about the cities within London city? Guess not…so here goes…London comprises of two cities: The City of London (the ancient city with the forts etc & today the Financial district) and The City of Westminster (the present day Civil admn hotspot with the Parliament Houses and so on). The City of London is interesting for its choice of logo I thought. It still has the old (retarded looking) dragons of the days of Ye Olde Londinium. (It’s not just the Chinese who believed in dragons in those days.)

If you thought I was already too taken in with the sights and sounds of London, figure this!

Candies on sale at Winter Wonderland, the annual winter fair at Hyde Park

And this…

Mad shopping among mad crowds at Oxford street on Boxing day

And of course, I did the tried and tested ‘tourist tour’ of London aka the landmarks where tourists stand and get their pictures clicked for the benefit of their bug-eyed folks at home (and to post on FB of course…).

Parliament Houses

Horse Guards Parade

Westminster Abbey

Here’s an interesting fact. The horseman in the picture of Trafalgar Square below is Charles II, the only King in Britain’s history to be tried and executed for a tiff-off with the church (and some other politics). He was hanged in public and he supposedly wore two shirts during the hanging to not let his subjects see him shivering. His son was eventually restored to the throne and all ended well. But in the memory of this ‘sad’ event Big Ben has a black dot on its face at the minute when he was hanged. The statue in the picture below was also erected at the exact centre of London with every measurement of distance leading off from his statue (supposedly).

Trafalgar Square: Site of the Olympics countdown clock and location for large public gatherings in the city

So here’s to the end of this post (my first blog post corresponding to a travelogue). A picture of swans sleeping on the Thames. 🙂

Sleeping Beauties

and the picture of the event that made me jump around like a March hare. 😀 (Pssst…my first Snow experience.)

Enchanted forest? No…the campus woods after the first snow of the year

You may also like Back to blog Amy Winehouse style , Bangalore to London 2 and Midnight in London.