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  • Dougie

London at it's very best

Updated: May 26, 2022

I worked in London for three years, back in the early 1980s. I was fortunate to become National Secretary of the National Union of Students in 1981 (one of five full time members of the elected National Executive). I came second in the Presidential election in 1982 and, because there are no prizes in life for coming second, I left the Union role. I don't like not winning but trust me, worse things happen in life.

For a while I worked rather successfully as a fund-raiser for a political party that no longer exists. Then, as a result of a mental health crisis that disrupted the life of a colleague, I joined a small team that organised a political and cultural 'festival of ideas' we named Marx With Sparx. We were justifiably pleased with our clever play on words. I doubt that the British shopping institution knew or cared we were riffing off their nickname.

We staged interesting political debates to which no one but us was listening. John Cooper Clarke recited poetry. Rip, Rig + Panic made the stage bounce . And The Flying Pickets performed their chart-topping acapella version of Only You. We had fun. But out in the real world, Margaret Thatcher won her landslide election victory of 1983.

(Pix by Nick Hider on flickr)

I (mostly) enjoyed my working life in London. I was young and foolish. I thought then -- and believe even now -- we could / can make a difference in the world (although sometimes you do have to go through decades of pain). But I really did not take to London. Truth is -- I loathed the place.

That, of course, tells you much more about me that it says anything true about the big smoke.

In the nearly forty years since then I have come to like London more and more. It has become, I think, one of my favourite places despite -- or perhaps because of -- its many contradictions and failings. But which big city doesn't have truck loads of both?

Oddly (it seems to me) for all my time living in and visiting London, I have never been inside Kensington Gardens until today. Hyde Park to the east -- yes. The Albert Hall just across the road -- yes. Paddington - yep. But never in the gardens until Spike and I wandered through them without much purpose except being there on a warm spring day, checking out the art (of course) in the Serpentine Galleries and lunching late (also, of course).

This is a magical place.

The Gardens took my breath away. Place and people, it would seem, meant for one another. To be, to stroll, to sit or cycle, roller-blade or run. A place to pose (as humans, swans and squirrels do). A place, I think, in which to lose oneself or maybe -- if you are touched by the peace and quiet and tranquility that pervade the park -- to retrieve a little of whatever it might be that one can lose in any big and busy city.

I cannot fathom why it has taken sixty years and more for me to find myself in such a gorgeous space. Who knew?

There is this ...

And this place (for lunch and art)

And there is him (never growing old).

And there are these guys ...

There is -- I am certain -- no better way to spend a lazy Thursday afternoon.

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