Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom… and two places that really should not be featured!

I realize that London is NOT an unusual destination, but, inevitably, some areas of London are visited more often than others, and other areas are unknown to almost everyone except those who live in them.

London is my birthplace. It is a city loved and hated in more or less equal measure. With over 300 languages now spoken by its people, it is one of the most cosmopolitan places on the planet, which therefore, in my estimation at least, makes the city a magnificent and magical place. However, from the architectural point of view, London is an increasingly incoherent and ugly place. But this does not mean that the city does not have many other things to commend it beside being effervescently multiethnic.

One of the most enduring myths about London is that it is a vast city made up of many villages. A nice idea, perhaps, but the reality is very different, today at least. Noise, traffic, pollution, litter, increasingly uniform high streets dominated by the same charity shops, betting shops, coffee shops and fast food outlets, and lots of mundane late 20th century architecture (thinly-clad sheds for retail purposes, high-rise concrete slabs for housing, and steel and glass boxes for those “masters” of the universe, the men and a few women in the financial services’ sector who have contributed more than most to ruining our economy for a generation), ensure that London’s “villages” are often tacky, hyperactive and congested places increasingly uncertain of their identity (however, there was a time when each “village” had something special or unique about it). This said, London still has so many positive qualities that even an exile like me, who has not lived for over forty years in what we used to call The Smoke, can deny its appeal. But its appeal lies largely in those places that are a little off-the-beaten-track. Hence the following photos.

Most photos derive from Walthamstow, where, as at least two shots confirm, something of “village” London survives, despite the fact that the borough is one of the capital’s most multiethnic with an overwhelmingly working class population reeling under the current economic hardships. Other photos derive from Liverpool Street Station and the area immediately around it (note the Gherkin in the background of one of the shots). I could not resist a photo of one obvious landmark, however, Piccadilly Circus (but at night). Blink, and the neon lights transport you to Times Square in New York. Nor could I resist sharing a stereotypical image of London, the tree and the street lamp in silhouette against a cloudy sky. Why is this a stereotypical image? Because the London boroughs have done wonders to ensure that trees and street furniture survive from the past, so much so that, although the photo derives from Walthamstow (as does the photo of the Danny Kaye poster), it might have been taken almost anywhere in the Great Wen.

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