Tonight is the fourth night in a row I have been at home left to my own devices. It’s been all very pleasant, but, needless to say, I am getting rather bouncy and looking forward to a night at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow, pay day drinks on Friday and a weekend with my folks. Happy days.
Yet, despite my interest in the work of Lucien Freud, there is part of me that really doesn’t want to head into central London tomorrow. You see, I really need to do a little bit of shopping and, without making a major de-tour, that means one thing: Oxford Street. Yes, okay, so I could go on a different occasion but I really want to get to H&M whilst the bath mat I so desire is still in stock and to visit Paperchase whilst they have their sale on – and I really don’t want to have to dedicate an entire afternoon to High Street Hell.
That’s the problem with London – so much of it is so big, so overwhelming and so rammed with tourists that I can understand why it puts a lot of people off. I admit, when I first moved here I quite liked its brazen boldness, but as our relationship has developed it is a side of London that I have realised I don’t really care for.
Luckily, over the years, I have been able to take a peek at the capital’s alternative underbelly – and I like what I see. It is the hidden gems, the little nooks and crannies that make London so great – and constantly full of surprises.
Let’s start with museums. An Australian friend of mine was looking for something new to do the other weekend. She fancied a museum but had done all the big players to death, so I suggested the Old Operating Theatre. Tucked away at the back of London Bridge, it is crammed with old medical apparatus, bits of preserved bodies and the theatre itself – viewing gallery, blood stains and all. To me it is a proper museum – dusty, dark and more than a little bit macabre. What more could a London girl ask for? I know there are other like-minded places I have yet to have a poke around in – one of them being the better known Horniman Museum, which I shall definitely get around to visiting this year in order to catch its The Body Adorned exhibition (think tattoos, piercings and the like).
It’s also a relief to know that there is a wealth of other things I can get up to in the evening that are a little bit off the beaten track. I’m not a huge fan of musical theatre, but had a magical experience at the Soho Theatre a couple of months ago, listening to stories told by the Crick Crack Club. When I fancy a night on the dance floor, rather than your run of the mill superclubs, there are nights arranged by the likes of B&H events where I can step back in time, dress up and lose myself in another era.
And, if you have a big party to arrange and don’t fancy a bar crawl around Leicester Square – fear not. As well as speedboat rides on the Thames (as raved about in a previous blog), there are also places like my favourite, Drink, Shop, Do, in Kings Cross. For my friend’s Pre-Wedding Girly Get-Together (I wasn’t allowed to call it a Hen Do) we tucked into afternoon teas “with a kick” – whilst attempting to make garters. It was great fun and I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my girlfriends so engrossed in all our years. And we are talking a lot of years...
So, there you go – my whistle-stop tour of London’s less flashy leisure activities. It just goes to show, first impressions can be misleading, and big doesn’t always mean better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to book tickets for the opera – as performed in a gay bar...