What a weekend! This was our first family visit to the great metropolis in 7½ years and we stayed with Mrs R’s little brother, his wife and 2 young children in rather nice Tulse Hill.
We arrived in London on Friday evening and found a city buzzing at the start of the weekend; whilst Saturday morning was a breezy, bright morning spent walking around autumnal Brockwell Park.In the afternoon it was a la recherché du temps perdu as drove the 2 or 3 miles up to Balham. What had been a run-down, seedy suburb in the 80’s and a villagey yet vibrant area in the 90’s has now been made over into a yuppified playground. And Mrs R and I were shocked and a little saddened.
Our arrival in Balham was met with a parking meter but also by our wonderful and unique postman, Cliff – much hugging and reminiscing of neighbours. We then walked around Balham and a few ‘old’ shops remained – second-hand books, hairdresser, Afro-Asian products, jeweller – but now there were also up-market restaurants and shops, Waitrose, As Nature Intended and numerous coffee bars!
Later we had tea with 2 sets of friends (way back from antenatal classes) and saw how their children had grown and developed and heard about the vicissitudes of local schooling.
The highlight of the weekend for me was waking up on Sunday morning – the sky was overcast and the drizzle was steady. My favourite evocation of London is rainy Sunday mornings – shivery, grey and peaceful apart from the sound of the rain. Oh joy!
Then we packed up and headed for South Kensington and the Natural History Museum via a wander along Knightsbridge. The museum was heaving, even at 10 in the morning, with half-term families and overseas visitors. Lunch was taken with my elderly and delightful aunt in Kentish Town, before we headed back up the motorway to Yorkshire again.
Both Mrs R and I reminisced about how little the atmosphere of London had changed and mooted how easily we’d like to live there again. The young Refugees had different ideas; they were – to a girl – steadfast in their desire to live in Great Bickering and away from the ugly, demon metropolis.
And my final conclusion about our visit – there IS a North-South divide.