Samuel Johnson told us, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” He went on to say that the city has “all that life can afford” and this is as true today as it was then. While the London Johnson wrote of in 1777 is markedly different from the London of today, the 18th century certainly saw the city become established as a centre for the arts and architecture. Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn visited, and the city became increasingly cosmopolitan.
The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral, a work of many centuries, was finally completed in 1711 while the British Museum and the original Buckingham House (later to become the palace) were built. Garden Squares began to appear around the city, increasing demand for the surrounding houses.
By the end of the 18th century, the population had grown to almost one million. Today is it in excess of eight million, and rising.
And so, when my agents, Northbank Talent Management, sent an invitation to their Spring Drinks Party, I decided it was time to pay another visit to our capital city.
Arriving at Kings Cross station mid-afternoon, I emerged to a cheering crowd held back by stout barriers and determined police officers. Disappointingly, they had not gathered to herald my visit – the Sunderland Football Team had travelled on our train and the fans were there to give them a warm welcome. Sadly, the team did not win the match.
Our accommodation for the five-day trip was a small B&B in a quiet street in Golders Green, an area new to me. The neo-Georgian house was charming and the welcome warm. Over several delicious breakfasts we met and chatted with travellers from Germany, Sweden and Russia. Across the road was Hampstead Heath Extension, a flat, grass area surrounded by trees which made walking the one mile to the Underground station a relaxing start to what was to be a succession of busy days.
And we were busy! A trip to Brighton (bitterly cold but with the obligatory ice-cream), a visit to St Paul’s, climbing the 378 steps to the external Stone Gallery, a trip to the iconic Ally Pally, a riveting performance of Small Island at the National Theatre and so much more. I walked my legs off, as my daily step-count confirmed.
Northbank’s drinks party on the last evening of our stay was in The Snooker Room at The Groucho Club and it was lovely to meet the Northbank Team, as well as fellow clients. A charming oasis in the hustle and bustle of Soho.
And then it was time to come home. Back to Scotland. On the loveliest day of our stay, we sat outside Kings Cross station, reluctant to leave the morning sunshine. Five hours later, we stepped out of the train onto a rainy platform. We were definitely back in Scotland! Later that evening, unable to stop yawning, I gave in and retired to bed. I was tired from travelling. But tired of London? Certainly not. The good Dr Johnson had a point and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.