My father always said that when you are in London, look up: On a day like the blinding one we had yesterday, it’s worth poking your head out of the bus window and looking up beyond the England flags. I couldn’t concentrate on my book on the bus to work on Wednesday, so I gazed outwards and upwards from the top deck of the bus.
You notice things that you can’t usually see, because you’re too busy trudging ahead and staring in the distance at eye level, or gazing down at the bird shit-splattered pavements. I noticed several things for the first time, despite having done the same journey to work for four and a half years. Another London life goes on up and above the commercial office and consumer shops of the city; hopeful flowers spilling over the roof railings from lovingly tended flower pots, small manicured trees jostling for space beside washing lines that, for the residents of the Peabody Buildings in Lumley Street, were strung across their roof gardens and today filled with bright white shirts and tea towels.
On Oxford Street, at the junction with North Audley Street, there is a tall building on the corner with an attractive weather vane on the very top of it in black iron. All the way down Oxford Street, walking east from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus myriad television aerials sit on the top of roofs of seven storey shop and office blocks. There is a decorative roof urn at the corner with Lumley Street (there is another of these ghoulish things visible from my office in Avery Row. It stands higher than any of the seven differently layered roofs around it) And something strange at the top of the roof of the building housing The Body Shop (corner with James Street). It looks like a circular Grecian mini-temple constructed out of black wood, but has openings for birds so seems to be a part-time aviary.
Looking up, buildings become monoliths – swathes of doric column at the front of Selfridges, tessellated brickwork jutting and curving out nonsensically above Starbucks. Buildings remake themselves as their architectural designs are reinterpreted. At the Park Road entrance to the Regents Park (just north of Baker Street station) the grand glass lamps are supported by sections of elegant iron, curving like a woman’s spine in recline.
With the weather being too hot to focus on a book, there was nothing else to do but gaze out and upwards . Once you start looking up it’s difficult to stop, and drag your eyes back down to ground level in time to start your job. The view of a city from the top of a bus put a skip in my step yesterday morning. Heightening the line of vision is literally uplifting and made my reality more panoramic. London from the view of a bus is whatever you want it to be. Today it is blue, expansive, hopeful and gorgeous- so long as you remember to look up.
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