"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

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Why London?

I ask myself this question every time I go there.  What's so special about London?  Why am I drawn to it like no other city?  There are plenty of cities which are more beautiful, elegant, exciting even.  London is not chic like Paris, vibrant like New York or friendly like Amsterdam.  It can be a dirty, noisy, lonely, dreary, dangerous place.  Yet as my car heads along the Westway with the city spread out before me or my train slowly pulls into Marylebone station, my heart gives a leap of excitement.  It is as though the whole city is waiting for me to explore it, plunge into its unknown byways, discover its hidden secrets. It is then that I understand Samuel Johnson's well-known quotation - to paraphrase "when you are tired of London, it is time to retire to the countryside with your pipe and slippers!"


  1. Yes, a city like London (or Berlin in my case) is like a "palimpsest" that has to be deciphered and to be read in a new way - we have to de-tect its different, various layers to understand the 'soul' of a city of that dimension, that biography, and history. I like very much to combine different media, pictures and words - and I find your discoveries interesting and moving - sometimes a closer look were my wish in order to read the words ("Christus ... mors mihi incertum"?)- but it is our task to decode...-I bought Ackroyd's book "London...", tr. in German, some times ago and I have to study it with fresh eyes. I am convinced that we might see more if know more ..., but the serendipities are also some wonderful keys to open some doors!

  2. I found via google: "In the city of London. The (St. Olave's) churchyard was used as a burial place for large numbers of plague victims in 1665. Writes Sir Samuel Pepsy: "I was much troubled at it and do not think to go through it again a good while."
    Christus vivere mors mihi lucrum
    "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." 1 Philippians 21"
    Samual Pepsy's "Die geheimen Tagebücher" have been just published in a new German edition that makes some fury, completed by a lot of notes - would you like to follow him?

  3. Oh, sorry, I forgot to enlarge the photo by clicking -I have a close look at them- very fine! The most intriguing picture is nr. 1! I personally were interested in a short footnote en petit about location/day of the photograph- but maybe, this doesn't suit your intention?

  4. Thanks for your comments Philine - yes, you can click on any image to enlarge. I prefer to keep them this size on the blog for consistency. I'm not sure I want to go down the route of labelling all the locations and times as it is not my intention to be making a historical or factual tour but rather to give a flavour of the place and to make my own interpretations of other people's words and impressions. I look upon it as a sort of journey of discovery with literature and art as my guide. Of course, if you are especially interested in a particular photograph, I would of course give you the information!

    I hope you enjoy Samuel Pepys. I have not read the entire diary, but have read the abridged version and am currently listening to an excellent audiobook of the Diaries read by English actor Kenneth Brannagh - he really brings them to life.