Monday, April 21, 2008

My London to-do list

I’ve been making a list of the things I’m going to do when I get back to London. Leaving aside the issue of my carbon footprint, I’m thrilled at the prospect of a couple of months in both cities.

Eating Vietnamese on the Kingsland Road with Miss P is at the top of the list. I think about the food there more than is good for me. I once briefly dated an older banker who lived in Chelsea. When he asked my favourite places to eat in London and I said the Hackney Vietnamese restaurants, he thought I was joking. (He had expected a Hakkasan or Wolseley type of answer). He found it inexplicable that I could choose a genre of restaurant whose dining accoutrements included plastic chairs & paper napkins. But it’s all about the food, I tried to explain. We didn’t last.

That’s not to say an indulgent power breakfast at The Wolseley or Cecconi's won’t be on my list. I am sure one of the kindly London fashion PRs will oblige.

There will be some light shopping. COS for sure and maybe a trawl through the High Street fast fashion retailers to pick up the kind of inexpensive & easy summer pieces that it’s impossible to find in New York. I’m thinking somewhere hideous like Brent Cross where I can get it all done in the most efficient manner possible.

Daunts, the best independent bookshop in London has four branches, two of which are within walking distance of my London place. The babydog & I shall certainly be dropping in on the way to the Heath for a spot of advanced ball throwing. (If she's feeling better by then. Sigh.)

A leisurely bike ride down the canal from Camden to Haggerston Lock, through Islington and Shoreditch on a sunny day is a blissful experience. It’s a true green oasis in the heart of London, bordered by railway lines, factories, and warehouses, some converted into chi-chi lofts, others still very much in working order, where ducks & herons, moorhens & kingfishers exist equitably.

And, speaking of birds, when the weather is warm I am so going swimming in both the Parliament Hill Lido, & in the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. Unless you are an aficionado, the latter can be a hard sell. A proper pond, with ducks, & weed and, sometimes, rather cross looking swans, it has a thrust out pontoon (continually manned by lithe female lifeguards) with a ladder, so you can either climb or dive into the murky water. It’s so cold that you catch your breath, but after a few strokes you acclimatize and the temperature is perfect. I used to swim from May to September, and in August it was actually sometimes too warm. The water, although a funny brown colour, is kept fresh by the underground River Fleet which rises from a apring at Kenwood at the top of the Heath, & runs beneath the ponds.

It’s just simply one of the best outdoor experiences in London. Swimming the length of the water, sometimes in the rain, pausing at each moored lifebelt to look around at the encircling trees and blue sky, it’s easy to imagine oneself many miles from civilization. Until, of course, a plane on the Heathrow flight path zooms overhead.

Bicycles & bookshops, dachshunds & The Heath, food & restaurants, swimming & fashion. Pretty much sums me up then.