London is more than London, which might be true for any important town anywhere, but still it's truer for London. When you start studying English at school, you learn the language from silly handbooks praising the typical sights of the town which become sort of "icons" having little to do with the original thing. For the average pupil London is no longer the sum of the real people and things which are actually there, but it becomes a listing of places like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace which don't have any link whatsoever with London as it is. What's the relationship between one of this spots and a person living in London? I also wonder how you can live in such a huge city but by finding (or creating) your own niche. (I was looking at a black woman in Brixton, poorly dressed and visibly unfashionable: what's the connection between her and the touristic icons of her town, if any?)
London is like a drug you grow addicted to. You know you're throwing yourself away, you know you're wasting your time as you'll never possess that moloch. You'll never be able to see it as a whole, but you keep wanting more, more, more and more. Exactly like a drug. Even when you're doing nothing at all, apart from looking at the people around you or just being there. You dissolve yourself into the crowd and you experience this loss of identity as a pleasure. You want to lose your own self. You learn to forget how to say "I, me, my" and start feeling your nothingness, your being so tiny among so many people. (That was the first feeling I had when I first went to London years ago. I left my hotel and headed towards Oxford Street where I had to squeeze myself through the crowd. A growing sense of claustrophobia got hold of me and I was overwhelmed by anguish and fear). On Saturday night I was coming back from the whirling fury of Leicester Square, I was swimming in the sea of human flesh in the West End and felt oppressed by a strange feeling of displacement. The Piccadilly Line had some delays, so that more and more people kept coming down to the train platforms. Then the train did arrive and during the travel I started watching somebody dozing off and a sudden thought stroke me like a lightning: "This is not normal, this is not a normal life. This is not how we were meant to live". Of course I don't know how we are meant to live, I don't see any visible purpose in life (I even possibly think that we were not meant to live at all, but that we are mere accidents), yet for a moment I experienced a sense of unreality which was a revelation of sorts. This is an artificial life we lead, in cubicles made of concrete, in a huge town, always in a hurry, among millions and millions of other human beings we know nothing about, without being able to do anything practical to survive, without being able to find our food. Creatures of the city, we think we're powerful, but we're just powerfully dependent. Working machines performing tasks with no recognisable aim, as it were. All of a sudden I felt the fragility of this moloch: it's easy to imagine how the very survival of such a big town could be undermined and how it could be swept off in no time at all. Just imagine that there might be no electrical energy left, for instance. Just imagine the consequences. Then I had another thought: what if we should vanish from the earth? Would that change anything? Take the London underground a lot of times every day and these fears, these thoughts will become common knowledge. Mundane commonplaces. So, mind the gap (in our minds). Ensure that you don't leave your luggage unattended at any time: you might come back and find no luggage any longer. Or not find yourselves.
I had made no plans for this trip to London. Surely I didn't want to visit any museums or any "cultural" institutions. Going back to London - after only a few months - is a pleasure also because I can meet R.S. and Ma.S. again (and after seeing me the former has written to me that I look much better "in health and in spirits" than last time. Let it be true!). The rest of the three days is devoted to my roaming about town, which is an excellent way to waste my time and energies in London. I like going to neighbourhoods which are totally neglected by tourists. When walking in Charing Cross Road you hear bits of Italian spoken everywhere - so that it seems as if the town has been invaded by Italians -, but if you go a bit outside you hardly hear people speak English. That's what I do. I go to Brixton, unfashionable Brixton, with no purpose in mind but to see something different. For the same reason, some months ago I went to Whitechapel, then walked to the North towards Bethnal Green and Hackney, to the Grand Union Canal. And every time I take a double decker to come back. I sit on the upper deck and enjoy the sight: this makes me happy like a child. It's pure and animal happiness, untainted and unspoiled by any thoughts. When coming back from Brixton, the bus goes over Westminster bridge and on my left hand side I catch a glimpse of Big Ben and I feel strangely moved by something so obvious.
Gay saunas have greatly improved in London, so that now they can boast a European standard. Now you can fuck and have sex without being forbidden to do so and you even get free condoms and lube everywhere, so that they outstrip quite a few saunas in Europe, especially in Italy and in Germany. It's extremely different now from the first time I visited one in 1997, which is not ages ago, however. I had to go to very distant places, such as Streatham or Walthamstow, where I was met with a conspiratorial look and the question: "How did you learn about us?". Then the sauna was quite dilapidated and down-to-earth. It was prohibited to have sex in the premises: I suppose it was labelled as "grossly indecent", according to the law. Somewhere they did have some cabins, but with no doors, so they could say they were meant only for relaxing and not for private sex. The experience was quite frustrating, because it was tantalising to see so many naked men - and some very attractive too - and not being allowed to try your luck with them. Now it's like everywhere else and some boys (oh, the English Boys) are even becoming spoilt. As a matter of fact, my quest for The English Boy - all words must be written in capital letters - was a complete failure. But what is The English Boy? How does he have to look like? Well, The English Boy must be blond, his skin must be white, he must be slightly effete, his limbs must be fine, his pube soft and furry, his cock rosy. If he blushes when he's sexually aroused or when it's too hot in the steam room, so much the better. If he has a posh British accent, that only adds something special to the charms of the perfect English lad. He shouldn't laugh all the time, shouldn't be too jolly - like the boy we saw sitting at the table in front of ours in the restaurant we went to on the first night out -, but if he's sad and serious instead that only makes him sexier. Moreover he should have slightly jutting cheekbones, because a round face would destroy The perfect English Boy. A special variety of the English Boy - for whom I'd accept even his not being blond - is the London Lad. Young professionals working in the City and wearing elegant suits and ties which only make one dream of tearing off their clothes before bending them over and fucking them wildly. I did see many of them everywhere in town. A wonderful specimen crossed my path in the underground one day and I was mesmerised by his appearance, as he possessed all the main features of The English Boy (extreme blondness, jutting cheekebones, white complexion, nice butt without being much too evident, slight effeteness). Unfortunately enough my quest for The English Boy was not successful and I had to be content with foreigners residing in London or with non-English Londoners who did agree to give me some temporary sexual pleasure and relief.
How can one possibly write anything or give a full report about a town which is so deeply loved and worshipped by so many people? I can just give some details I picked up here and there. During the weekend I was impressed by the typical English Girls going out at night. They generally wore a miniskirt, stiletto heels, no stockings to cover their pale legs, a blouse with no sleeves and, sometimes, a bra pushing up their tits. I saw so many of them that I came to the conclusion that they must be an institution of London nightlife. Some of them were very young and quite clumsy when they walked, which marred the very femininity they wanted to stress with that outfit. Their arms and their décolletés were blotched because the night air was cold. They often walked arm in arm with their boyfriends, who must have been proud to flaunt such nice pieces of flesh. While I was sitting on a bench in Leicester Square I saw many of them passing by, then I gave a look to the two old men sitting on the bench next to mine and tried to guess their thoughts while their eyes darted towards those half-naked young "beauties". Ma.S. explained to me then that the more you move northward, the fewer clothes they wear, so that I guess that in Aberdeen they must be wearing only their thongs when they go out on a Saturday night.
... things I do: waking up early in the morning, being frisky and ready for a new day (I like witnessing the awekening of a town when I'm on holiday); walking around town while constantly changing my plans (every time I go to London I feel that I'm seeing fewer things than the time before); looking for nice vegetarians places where to have lunch (my favourite haunt, "Country Life" in Warwick Street, was closed during the weekend, so I had to look for a good alternative: I found "Fresh and Wild" in Brewer Street); popping into every bookshop I find on my path (Waterstone's in Piccadilly is a compulsory stop, though) and buying books even though I don't know when I'll have the time to read them all; eavesdropping bits of conversation while sipping a coffee in a café (because I haven't got used to drinking tea as they do) and trying to make out what other people say and in which language; reading ads and signs everywhere, which always makes me smile when they're funny in an English way (the funniest one was a sign on the wall at the entrance of a pub in Shoreditch: "If you look younger than 21, you could be asked to prove that you are older than 18"); watching The English Boys all around me; taking the tube and pretending I'm one of them...