London. There was always the sense of colourful pulse of a multicultural city, permeating its beat to the airport and making me feel instantly home whenever I came upon these lands… Now it’s been five years since I left and I’m curious to see how I’ll feel being back. And nothing’s changed: the minute we board the airport shuttle I have a strange sensation of having arrived home. A strong sensation. An exciting sensation. This is the city that shattered my dreams and exhausted me to the point of leaving when I lived here for seven years, and I’d anticipated a different response. Oh my – I’d been yearning for cities full of people, stories, life when hibernating in Helsinki and finally: LIFE! And yet we are in the middle of the night, the last tube across the town.
Hustle and chaos of Hackney. Breakfast in Soho. Books from Waterstone’s, my old retreat within the city. Walk through Green Park and Hyde Park. Wander into Serpentine Gallery. Coffee in Notting Hill. Late lunch in Portobello (from a shop I worked during my first London year). Anxious rush to West End. My first day’s activities are like routines from the past, and suddenly I have the impression I’m observing the old me in that old life from a higher ground while at the same time being here now. Experiencing this perspective and difference between the past and present becomes very revealing…and moving. Why did I doubt myself so much while I sat on that bench that day? These same paths, what a wonderful summer it was yet I did not know where I was going. Oh, I remember those ideas I wrote down in this café! How come I didn’t understand that when I was contemplating it here? (It was obvious!) That day…and I was doing that. Oh, and there was this…and then I used to…
It’s easy to lose your focus in this town. But people do look you into the eyes, especially pretty girls.
The film screening takes place in King’s College, and for a moment I wonder if I’m at the right theatre: it starts with a brief lecture on advances in medical transplants and goes on to celebrate a publication of a new book in this field. Then there are the films, all weaving art, philosophy, science and poetry in various doses together. Though always keen on bringing art and science together this joint event takes me as a surprise albeit curiously so. There’s a rapturous response from the full audience after our film and two ladies next to me comment on how they loved the music. I feel utterly flattered, but shy so I leave without saying a word. I should have a deck of “business” cards with me for the moments like this.
The banquet afterwards is held in this fabulous warehouse conversion in the East where finally I get to meet Nana, the artist and director behind the film, in person. And she’s wonderful! All of the crew is there too, including the famous twins in matching tweeds and scarves, and several guests, great food, music, atmosphere – but I’m too tired after the day to be overtly social. Besides I don’t know anyone else here which raises the bar further. Early exit and bed.
The Miroslav Balka installation (‘How It Is’) in the Turbine Hall at Tate is fascinating and truly interactive: so this is (a faint glimpse of) how it must have felt. Elevated walk around the galleries, I love the fact that public spaces like this exist and they are buzzing with people (I didn’t always think like this when I used to work here). Artworks are triggers for experience in you, and a whole jungle of those to be found in here; also lots of possible ideas for music which (again) makes me wonder why so often musicians are looking to music when they are making their own stuff. STOP MAKING MUSIC, START MAKING SOMETHING THAT EXCITES YOU RIGHT NOW (and disguise it as music if you will). This is not an attempt at cleverness btw.
One of the pleasant surprises of the trip was that my friend and great musician himself, Tero aka Lakeus happened to come to London for the same weekend and on the same plane! Inspiring company on the flight here and inspiring company in the Saturday afternoon for lunch and record and book shopping in Soho (and yes, we both happened to arrive at the meeting from Tate but that we didn’t know…).
Seeing the centre since the closure of the Borders stores (not that I’m a fan of that brand) one thing is obvious: city centres need spaces which are multipurpose in nature. E.g. acting as a living room or retreat, providing information and new experiences, offering stimulating atmosphere to meet, flirt and socialize, encouraging trade and – most of all – offering an alternative to that tedium of endless clothing stores, food joints, coffee chains and every other shop where the only purpose is to buy and sell. At the moment the centre of London feels empty and not at all so happening, and no, the new glitzy clothing store replacing the Borders isn’t helping at all.
Devouring Geeta Dayal’s ‘Another Green World’ over a marvelous tiramisu and espresso at this new and lively Italian bakery. Saturday night, the city is buzzing and I’m feeling like a restless amphibian.