The Shard stands alone, a rectilinear finger of defiance aimed at whatever carefully imagined god might be watching. I’m serious: it gives the London skyline the sort of gesture you’d make at a cabby who suddenly swerved in the street, dumping you and all your possessions onto the pavement in an unceremonious heap.
It’s ugly, but in a confusingly beautiful way. For many of us, our only encounter with the Shard spire is in that really repetitive sweeping shot they always use at the beginning of the Apprentice to persuade you that in order to become rich and powerful all you really need is a bit of hard work and perseverance. This is a lie in every important respect, but the great thing about all the really big lies is that they start to look like gospels if you stick a kernel of truth in the middle and build around them.
Luck, serendipity, fortune and glory.
They’re incredible concepts and you’ve only got to play the National Lottery to get familiar with the way probability and chance interact with each other. I once knew a guy in Ramsgate who was convinced, he was the source of bad luck in other people but always came out on top himself. I particularly remember him saying, as an example of his questionable fortunes; ‘The Titanic wouldn’t sink unless I was on it…but when it did, I’d be the only survivor.’ I would literally love to know what happened to the chap, as the last time I saw him he was playing an early release of the game Doom back in the late 90s, jabbing at the keyboard with a single finger and screaming ‘Die, Rhinoface!’ while stemming an actual, real-life nosebleed with some toilet roll. Unusual guy, really…but I’d be lying if I said I missed him.
I’m currently on my way to Pizza Pilgrims, having spent most of the day trekking around the Tower of London, staring balefully at priceless crown jewels and then boggling at the fact that the public is asked to make donations so that they can stay in a priceless condition. My son pointed out that they were using mirrors in the contribution box in order to make it look as though they’d raised hundreds of pounds and not the twenty-seven quid that was actually in there. We also met a beefeater who informed us that all his medals were from serving in the army and that most of the ceremonial guards were genuinely retired servicemen; this came as quite a surprise and gave some welcome depth to the patriotism involved in many of the ceremonies.
The cannons at the Tower of London are apparently a shock to everyone except the ravens, who quickly seize the moment and snatch every opportunity to go for a bread roll amid all the chaos and confusion. After the second or third bang, they don’t bother (I think I’ve seen that advice on a t-shirt somewhere) and everything goes back to normal. It occurs to me that the ravens are like seagulls; they’re just a more acceptable form of air rat because they have personality and look a bit mythical: they’d still have your eye out for a cheese sandwich.
I’m going everywhere by Uber because the thing I love most about the London Underground is being able to avoid it. Uber drivers are REALLY friendly: one gave me a free carton of orange juice and another one insisted on dropping me so close to my restaurant that the waiter came to the car window to take my order.
I could get used to London, given enough time and a better haircut.
Oh, well….onwards and upwards.