Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Saturday List #93 - Ten reasons to celebrate living in London in the year 2016

Everyone I know has been affected by recent events. The Euro vote demonstrated in stark terms just how different London is to the rest of the UK. I firmly believe, with all my heart, that London is the greatest City in the World. There is nowhere else in the world I'd consider living. I beleive London is a special City. I believe we lead the World. Lets never forget this. So I thought I'd put together my top 10 lists of reasons to celebrate London. It's a personal list, I am sure your list would be different. As there are hundreds of reasons, I thought I'd make a few rules. Only one item in each category, for instance I could easily list ten music venues or sports grounds. Also they have to be places I've visited in the last year. No point hauling out things from my youth or the reign of Queen Victoria. London is modern and vibrant.

1. Transport. Thameslink - The greatest railway line in the world. There is no station on the planet with a better view than Blackfriars. The best time to go is approx 7.30am in November. At this time the sun is rising between the Towers of Tower Bridge. It is magical. The line also goes to St Pancras, which is the gateway to Paris and is the most amazing station. Barlows Train shed and Scotts St Pancras hotel is always worth a visit. Kentish Town has great pubs. West Hampstead is the home of the JesterFest, a great Free Festival that I am just about to deliver a PA to, come along. Cricklewood is a vibrant, friendly town centre, with some great pubs. Hendon Station has the Midland Hotel, which is the spiritual home of my band The False Dots, we play there regularly. It is what you may call "a proper boozer". And then there is Mill Hill. This is the home to Mill Hill Music Complex - Londons finest studios and currently home to over 200 fantastic bands. As the train runs North from Mill Hill, you pass the Gateway services. Then it all goes dark, you are in a tunnel and you are out of London. Sorry for not mentioning the South London parts of Thameslink, but not been there for over a year.

2. Park. This was a tough one. But I had to go for Golders Hill Park. On a Sunny day it is magical. It has a bandstand and a small zoo. It is a great day out. Nothing better than an ice cream on the journey.

3. Museum. This has to be the V&A, although I love the Science Museum(especially the recent USSR Space exhibition), the Natural History Museum and the RAF museum. The V&A is innovative and different. The Bowie exhibition was truly amazing in 2013. The current Paul Strand photography exhibition is well worth a visit.

4. Restaurant. This one was nearly impossible for me. There really are so many. My choice is a very personal one. It is The Good Earth Chinese in Mill Hill. The reason is quite simple. It is the restaurant of choice for all my children for birthdays and special events. I believe a truly successful restaurant is not poncey, but a place for a family celebration. I love a but of fancynesss for a romantic dinner, but I love somewhere where the whole tribe go and we have a good time. The food at The Good Earth is better than any other Chinese I've visited. Try the Wasabi Prawns. As a side note, always had a soft spot for it since the owner helped my dad in 1986 when he was mugged collecting his firms wages from Lloyds bank. The guy who hit my Dad with a baseball bat (Dad was 64 at the time) got 2 years.

5. Street food. On the subject of food, there are many great places to get Street food. For me the best is Whitecross St market, near the Barbican. Yesterday I got a fine vegetarian French pancake there, and as usual had a chat with the lovely French lady who does the serving up. This is London life at its finest! There is an amazing array of foods. On a sunny day, get your lunch and eat it around the corner in Fortune ST Park!

6. Sport Venue. This was an impossible choice for me. I love football, so my initial choice was Wembley Stadium, but actually I pulled back from that. whilst I love Wembley, I think nothing beats watching 20/20 cricket at Lords. Wembley is just a bit too corporate and football just a bit to stuck in the past. 20/20 cricket is a far more fun experience.

7. Music Venue. This has to be The Roundhouse. I first went there in 1977 for The Ramones, Talking Heads and The Saints. I've lost count of the number gigs I've seen there. It has changed beyond recognition since 1977, but it is still the best place in the world to watch a band. For me it is the optimal size for a venue. It has moved with the times. I love the outdoor area and the cafe as well.

8. Food market. I know it is expensive, touristy and a bit naff these days, but I still love Borough Market. The fish is superb. You can also get great truffle oil and cheese.

9. Walk. My favourite walk is from The Passage, the Homeless Day Centre where I volunteer to Blackfriars station, via Westminster Cathedral and the South bank. I love the memorials in Westminster Cathedral, a great place to spend a quiet ten minutes. Then a meandering walk, with a tea and cake. Try it some time.

10. Pub. And finally, no trip around London could finish without a good pub. Again this one is virtually impossible. And the choice will probably surprise you. One of my best mates is a Welsh guy called Keith (He's really called David, but where he comes from in Prestatyn, everyone is called David, so he calls himself by his second name as it was always easier). We regulalry go on pub crawls to sample the finest ales in London. Keith is a CAMRA member and takes beer seriously. The pub I've chosen is  The Doric Arch at Euston, for the simple reason that Keith and myself have started more pub crawls there than anywhere else. It is a Fullers pub, so the beer is good. It is a working pub, not twee or ponced up. It is a place you go for a beer whilst waiting for a train or waiting to meet someone. It is stuffed full of authentic Rail memorabilia. In short, it is a perfect pub because it is functional and does what it says on the tin.


That's my list. Do you agree, what is your list?

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