London is lapsing into autumn, a season I think is quintessentially fitting for the city. London is wonderful in the spring, a bit out of its element in the summer (sorry) and at times bleak in the winter except for during and after the first snow. Although sometimes bleak can be beautiful.
Nonetheless, when I think of London, I think of it always with an autumnal lens in my mind. I arrived in London for the first time at the end of August, so as I was getting to know my surroundings, I was also getting reacquainted with a season I hadn’t experienced properly since I was around ten. I crunched brown leaves under my shoes as I paced through an open pocket A-Z guide, finding my way through the city and the season. Autumn and London seem linked together, and with holidays like Bonfire Night to look forward to, as well as smaller pleasures like when mulled cider appears on the bar of your favourite pub, it can be one of the best times to be in the city.
Although many Londoners are bemoaning the encroaching darkness as we lose the annual battle for daylight, I’m taking pleasure in the provenance of the local fruit and veg shops near me filling up with delicious harbingers of the season: blackberries, butternut squash, acorn squash, apples, FIGS!!! and plums. Soon we will be greeting the arrival of oranges at their peak from Spain and Italy, but that will come later. For now, there’s roast squash, butternut squash soup, apples and FIGS!!! to figure into savoury tarts and sweet desserts.
For the first time, I got a chance to go and do things during Open House London weekend this year. After a disappointment at trying to get into Battersea Power Station (along with half of London and much of Kent, it seems like), and further dejection at the Lloyds of London queue plus the Open House London app failing (I was able to get a programme from a nice man at Leadenhall, though), the whole experience turned out all right in the end. The outside of Lloyds of London occupied plenty of our time, even though we didn’t go in.
Also, later on we got to ride up a swift glass lift at 88 Wood Street and see some great views at the 17th floor. It may not sound very high to Americans who live in skyscrapered cities, but London is actually remarkably low-built outside of only a handful of buildings outside of Canary Wharf, so we really enjoyed our view of the riot of buildings below, as well as the pokey bits that stood out–the Shard and the Walkie-Talkie that melts cars.
The architect for 88 Wood Street is the same one for the Lloyds of London building as well, and it is an interesting building in its own right.
We also dropped into nearby Haberdasher’s Hall on Saturday, where Tom pointed out the symbolic peppercorn on display.
Our Sunday Open House London experience held the highlight of the weekend, which was visiting the narrowboats residing in Kingsland Basin. We got up early, and we were rewarded with an amazing insight into how a diverse group of folks–professional couples, older couples and families–live in the canals of Hackney and throughout England. There was a floating organic allotment (!), kept ducks and even beehives. The interiors of the houses were all as unique as the individuals living in them. It was colourful, inspiring and absolutely amazing, to say the least.
Plus, there was brilliant Guinness cake.
I am definitely looking forward to the next open day C.H.U.G. will be holding–that’s Canals in Hackney Users Group. Not just because it’ll be a chance to see Mary, one of the canalboat kitties, again, although she is quite special.
We also dropped in on nearby Hoxton Hall, part of the fabric of Hackney I have likely walked past a few times without noticing. If you haven’t had a chance to go in for a performance, you should make arrangements to stop in. It looks lovely.
All in all, I enjoyed Open House London this year. However, I’m sure I’m not alone when I would reckon it would be more popular if it were Open House London Week or Month, not just the weekend. Granted, I know organising events is tough work, but it would be nice and perhaps less stress on attendees if some of the larger places were set up for Open House more than just the weekend, or even just the one day. Might not happen, and may need an army of volunteers, but it would be amazing not to have to wait until next September to try to get into Lloyds of London again. However, C.H.U.G. should be having another Open Day before the year is out. Woot!
One of the things I have enjoyed this weekend is the experience of surprise I encountered again and again–and not just during the Open House London events, but in walks to get from point A to B. On our way to a pub in Islington for a friend’s birthday, we encountered a lovely neighbourhood that was quite pleasant and interesting to walk through. We also walked through a farmer’s market in Chelsea that, apparently, includes a nail salon (…?). There was also the interesting mural a side of Hoxton Hall faces, which was a nice discovery at the end of our tour.
London always seems to have a surprise in store, if you keep your eyes open and you’re willing to go off-track a little bit.