The Big Smoke

I’m departing in a few minutes for Toronto via London, Heathrow. For me travelling is all a part of the journey. It’s not a means to an end, but part of the process. I plan to hit the big smoke around twelve and make may way down to the Thames. It’s a ritual I always have to do when I go back to London. A symbolic gesture. Growing up in South London, a place where taxis fear to tread after dark I will retrace my steps to the south side of the river.

South East London has a distinctive feel to the North. The Thames marks a physical dividing line. North of the river lies the City, the symbolic heart of the city. The South East is more workman like.  Full of used car salesmen. The trains run over the tops of the buildings, clanking their way, screeching, sparking and emitting ozone. There is grime here. Hundreds of years of soot and dirt, never cleaned. It’s the London I remember. Not the glitzy side, but the run down decay of an area that has seen better days. Areas have been cleaned up, rebuilt for the 21st century but there are parts of the infrastructure that they can never change.

I will head down to Charing Cross, the terminus of my youth and head over the footbridge to the Southbank. I always need to cross the Thames on foot at least once when I return. Smell the air and feel the chill as the wind is whipped up of the water. I will walk along the south bank to London Bridge, browsing the book stalls if they are out and then cross back North. Heading back in to the city.

I had planned to meet up with Run Roller Run for dinner but due the planned public sector strike on the Wednesday I’ve rescheduled my flight for tonight. Roller used to skate with the Sheffield Steel Rollergirls but headed down to London to go to university. It would have been good to catch up, but not this time.

Then it’s on to the tube for the journey down to Heathrow. Check in my baggage and grab some lunch whist waiting for my flight. The flight is scheduled for 6pm which will get me in to Toronto for 9pm local time. A short drive to the hotel will end my journey. The extra day in Toronto may well be a blessing. An extra day to catch up on sleep before the real work begins.


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