“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson
Ever since I was eleven years old, I’ve wanted to see London. My fascination with the city started when I would come home after school, running from the bus stop to catch the second half of the day’s broadcast of Dangermouse on Nickelodeon. For the uninitiated, Dangermouse is the world’s greatest secret agent, a mouse in a white jumpsuit with an eye patch. His assistant, Penfold, is a hamster in a tiny blue suit. The link above is part of an episode. To date, Dangermouse is still my favorite cartoon.
As I grew older, the UK criss-crossed my personal pop culture landscape. Many movies I loved were filmed, in part, in Pinewood Studios about twenty miles outside of the city. Here’s a very short and in no way complete list: Superman and Superman II, the original Harryhausen Clash of the Titans, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Legend, the James Bond movies, Little Shop of Horrors, Aliens, the first two Hellraiser movies, the 1989 Batman, The Fifth Element, Stardust, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (the single finest movie adaptation of a stage musical ever made), and The Dark Knight. Granted, most of these didn’t showcase London, but they were made there, and in my brain, that counts. Sweeney Todd has an entire song just about London, though.
I read every Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy book as it came out. Tom Baker was my Doctor until 2005. I watch Love Actually at least once a year. A hefty portion of my regular television viewing comes out of the BBC. My favorite living author is British.
My point is that I was predisposed to love London even before I ever dreamed of traveling there. And I did, of course- dream of traveling there. When I finally got my passport back in 1996, it was with the intention of making it to London. I was just waiting for money, time off, and someone to travel with.
As I gained more seniority at Mr. Company, the money became less of a constraint, and the time off became easier to come by. I was still waiting for a travel buddy though, but it never quite worked out. Meanwhile, I went to other places. I traveled widely in my own country, visited Canada, and spent two weeks in Hong Kong for work. Then in late 2010, my life reached “Do-Over” status- I found myself single again and temporarily without an apartment of my own. In that time of upheaval, I made a promise to myself that I would reach London before my fortieth birthday.
Fast forward to April of this year. I’d been in Germany for a scant five months, and I saw a link on Facebook to a Neil Gaiman post. The surviving cast members of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio shows were doing a live touring version of the radio shows. Neil himself would be the voice of The Book in the Edinburgh, Scotland show on the 21st of July. Twenty minutes after I read the post, I had already purchased tickets. Thirty minutes after I read the post, I had compared the dates of the Olympics to the date of the show, verified that the week leading up to that event was a full week before the crowded Olympics began, and requested my vacation time. The trip formed from that point forward.
On Saturday, 14 July, I flew into Heathrow Airport, with an Oyster Card, a LondonPass, and a very basic travel framework locked in. I had a ticket for the London production of Wicked on Tuesday. I had a rail ticket to go from King’s Cross Station in London to Waverley Station in Edinburgh by rail on Friday. I had the aforementioned HHG Live ticket, and airfare to go from Edinburgh back to Munich the following Sunday. And finally, I had a list of things I wanted to see, based on a lifetime of absorbing the UK into my soul like so much mercury on the skin. I had a terrific time, and I took nearly a thousand photographs. I’m only going to share about two dozen of them here.