Sunday, 25 May 2014

Proud to be a Londoner

My parents were down in London today to watch Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit. I'm slightly jealous, of course, but met them for tea with Brother Edward, Sascha and Daniel, who I recall being with me when I wrote my first blog four years ago.

We went to Bill's in Covent Garden, which is a lovely place to eat, although someone should have told that to the Hen party on the next door table, who were all decked out in Claire's Accessory pink, but were eating in absolute silence, which was a most curious sight! Sometimes I think the majority of things associated with weddings are merely done because ever-evolving, yet brutally-prescriptive tradition dictates it should be done that way. Why feel the need to go out on the town and have a riotous time if it's only going to make you miserable? Why have an event which excludes friends of the opposite sex, if you have friends who are both male and female? Why separate yourself from your spouse and all of their friends with you could all have a jolly time together?

Speaking of weddings, I did a little search yesterday to see what the bottom-half of the internet were saying about our wedding, and was thrilled that I needed to look rather hard to find anything hugely negative. What I DID find came mostly from the gay community, touting that tired old line about how getting married in a musical was a camp stereotype which has pushed gay rights back by years. Obviously I opted not to respond with quotes from the hundreds of messages we received from people whose lives were changed for the better by seeing the show, but one of the most vociferous demonstrators was a particularly tragic case. When I looked at his twitter picture the irony of him accusing us of setting the cause back by years became deeply apparent. There he was dressed in electric blue, latex rubber fetish gear. I THINK he was rocking a sort of masculine look - in the same way that the Village People dressed as policemen - but surely if anything is stereotypical, it's members of my community who shun their theatrical and camp brothers for these ridiculous displays of "masculinity" which end up seeming even more camp than the truth they're too scared to embrace! I don't think anyone should feel the need to be anything other than honest with themselves. If you want to dress like a giant Smurf, do it. Enjoy it. If you want to sashay down Old Compton Street with your elbow surgically attached to your ribs, then good luck to you. What we must never do is criticise others for doing things their way.

Speaking of Soho, after depositing the family at the theatre, I walked back to the tube through Soho Square, and it all looked rather glorious bathed in evening sunshine. It was a true hive of activity, filled with all sorts of people having great fun. In one corner, two young people were teaching an elderly Chinese couple to dance salsa. In another, the council, or whoever owns the space, have set up outdoor ping-pong tables which people were happily using. I felt a sudden rush of pride to be a Londoner, which doesn't happen hugely often. I maintain, however, that, when London gets it right - The Southbank, Hampstead Heath, Soho - it is the best city in the world.

As if to prove this point, as I exited at Highgate Station, I was reminded of the hugely charming thing which happens up in this neck of the city. There's a wooden door which tends to slam shut at the top of the single-person escalator which takes people from the ticket hall up onto the Archway Road. The tradition is to hold this door open for the person behind you... It's a tradition which can go to great extremes. Some people will hold the door open for someone who emerges from the escalator ten or so seconds behind them. Basically, if there's anyone in sight, universally people will hold the door open for them. Isn't that lovely? And so un-London!

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