A few weeks back I had a delight of a Sunday. It was one of those days that unfolds beautifully by its own accord, where one thing turns into another and you find yourself flowing along the current of it to wherever it will lead. I live in London, one of the great cities of the world, layers and layers of it to discover and yet I find myself settling into a routine; travelling from the outskirts in Ealing to central London each day for work and back and not making the most of what is inbetween. This Sunday then was a pledge to explore and see what we could see. The day was a mini birthday celebration and I don’t usually, really, ever, celebrate my birthday but it was nice to and something clicked in my mind about how there is something entriely worthwhile in taking a day to celebrate a person and their life. Here is a photo reminiscence of it.
Firstly, an introduction to the best cookies in the world. I like how they are simply called ‘Ben’s Cookies’ and come in a bright red box with a whimsical Quentin Blake illustration, but it is the tsate and texture that make them a reason to make a diversion completely our of your way to get them. In London, thousands are fed in shops at South Kensington, Covent Garden and Shepherds Bush. The outer parts of the cookie circle are crisp like a cookie and the core of the circle is gooey and cake-like. The timing of buying one of these is key, getting them whilst they are still warm out of the oven means the chocolate chunks melt just ‘so’ when eating them. If you are ever in London, I would recommend going out of your way to get one, all other cookies will pale in comparison.
We decided to walk from our cookie stop in South Kensington to Hyde Park. Along the way we went into Harrods, a world within a world. Everything glimmers and gleams in there and I enjoyed looking at the stationary and furniture but it is full to brimming with people and a bit of a chaotic maze. I imagine the purchasing of all that glimmers and gleams in there actually leaves you feeling quite empty. But its a British institution of sorts and is a spectacle to look at once in a while.
Hyde Park= Boris Bikes.
We had no intention of cycling on Boris Bikes but there was a station of the blue delights as we entered Hyde Park, the sun was shining and I missed cycling so we decided why walk to Speaker’s Corner when we can cycle on the blue azure of Boris Johnson’s imagination. It was a brief ride but a lovely one underneath an avenue of trees. I reckon cycling is the best speed to see things, not too fast that you’ll miss anything but not too slow that you’ll get bored- I’d happily cycle around the world if I could.
Speakers’ Corner has been on my list of things I want to see in London. The neverending list list that keeps on growing much faster than the rate at which things get ticked off. I felt like Speakers’ Corner was a wonderful anachronism in the sense it is groups of people meeting together, face-to-face, to discuss and speak about whatever they think is worthy of conversation. In our times, when much communication is done behind the vanguard of digital screens, the existence of Speakers’ Corner where there are frank and honest exhcanges and where the idea of ‘freedom of speech and ideas’ is emobided is a refreshing return to people actually gathering together ‘to hear and be heard’- there is power in that notion. To listen to somebody else talk passionately and be inspired to think and to reply to them and test each other’s minds, to unpack an idea through conversation.
In 1872 Parliament granted that the right of assembly and public meeting at the patch of land between the site of the old Tyburn Gallows and the Reform Tree should be upheld… Speakers’ corner became a place for democracy to be enacted, where any individual could and can freely speak their thoughts. Aptly this came about as a consequence of the Chartists who had met there in their masses to protest against the supression of the rights of working people. ‘There for over a century men and women, some famous (Karl Marx, William Morris, Lenin, Geroge Orwell) but most not, have dissented and denounced, canvassed and converted, preached and proselytised’. Really then, to visit Speakers’ Corner is to visit a patch of history, where ideas have been born and heard. I saw people off all different religions and background there, some discussions were heated but it was all going on in peaceful way, no police presence, no physically threatening behaviour which just goes to show, we can all live side by side with entirely different views, opinions and values. (All quotes and information about Speakers’ Corner is taken from this website).
Before we knew it most of the day had gone, we needed to be in East London before 6:30pm. We’d wanted to eat dinner beforehand but there was no time so we got on the bus and arrived at the Picturehouse, Hackney.
Eliott Smith is my favourite musician. I’m not going to say too much about his music apart from the fact you need to listen to it to believe it, by this I mean -really- listen-to- it, listen to the words that seem to capture moments and feelings and people, and the music that is beautifully weaved around them. Perhaps start with this song, ‘Say Yes’ about a girl ‘whose in love with the world, the morning after’ and where the persona in the song feels they are ‘damaged bad at best’.
He died (by stabbing himself in the heart twice, althought the coroner’s report is inconclusive) in 2003 back when I was 15, just before I started listening to his music. It is an unfortunate and frustrating thing never being able to listen to your favourite musician live so you look for the next best thing. Heaven Adores You is a film that has recently been premiered around the world, a documentary about Elliott Smith’s life and music and how he could have been nothing more or less than a musician. After the film there was skype Q&A with the maker of the film who was in New York, that was an experience in itself sykping somebody on a cinema size screen! Then afterwards, four tribute artists played four Elliott Smith songs each. It was entirely what I needed to just sit and listen to beautiful music, too much now I’m doing other things whilst listening to music instead of just really hearing and focusing on the music. In particular, there was a duo called Grand Palace who captured the delicacey and strength that runs through Elliott’s music and Stephen Junior’s cover of Needle in the Hay was his own unqiue interpretation which made you sit up and listen to the anger in the undertones of the song, I’ve tried to find a recording of this cover since but I’m gutted to have not found one yet, I could listen to it again and again. The original can be listend to here.
The film took in the earlier parts of Elliott Smith’s musical career in the band Heatmiser and how there was a point when he became set apart from them, it became apparaent that he was in an entirely different musical league. How hard that must have been for them to accept and let him go pursue his solo career and create music in his own way. I do believe that some people are born to be something, that they couldn’t be anything else, so apparant and clear is the raw talent within them, that to not pursue it would be a crime and a denial of their true selves.
There ends my delight of a Sunday, it was perfect for me, it made me think and it made me smile. As I’ve written this, it has become clear that I proably could have done a whole post on Speakers’ Corner and Elliott Smith, perhaps those paragraphs are the start of something. Anyway, here’s to hoping that there are more Sundays like that ahead of me.