You can find the map for today’s 6.49 mile walk here. 33 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
On Day 46 I was surprised at how un-snooty and un-standoffish the people of Mayfair were. It was a great walk.
Today, the stereotypes I was wrong about the day before were, annoyingly, in full swing. This part of Mayfair (check the map here) was not lovely and wonderful and blissfully full of inspiration and friendliness. It was ugly in parts, unwelcoming on the whole and pretty disappointing after I had such a great day out just around the corner.
Most of the streets were lined with the back side of houses: cold, ugly garages, all with signs explicitly stating that you are not welcome there.
When I happened to stop on one of these angry, get-away-from-here streets to mark my map, I instantly heard the crackle of an intercom and a voice ask, “Can I help you??” in that way only the English can use to sound friendly while actually telling you to shove off.
I hadn’t pushed any buttons, peeked in any gates (surprisingly), or acted in any suspicious way. I was walking, I slowed, I stopped, I pulled out a piece of paper and put a pen to it. Oh the scandal!!
So that happened.
And that attitude epitomises the whole day out really. It was mainly residential, mainly not that pretty (not what I expected in Mayfair) and, all in all, not that fun or friendly.
Two good things did happen though. Three if you count this panda.
The best part of this area is Shepherd Market, hands down. It is a little bliss bubble of London in the midst of snobbery and exclusivity. It’s got restaurants, pubs (a shocking number for how small the place is) and a load of cute shops. The prices are unreasonably high, as can be expected in Mayfair, but it is by far the best place I came across on the walk today.
I also like that Shepherd Market is the original site of the May Fair (see what they did there?), an annual, two-week long celebration that got so rowdy and debaucherous it was moved to Bow in East London where the residents were more suited to that kind of life-loving festivity.
Just as an aside, while we’re on plaques and things, can I just say that these things get a little carried away sometimes? It really is getting ridiculous. First there was this one that commemorated the opening of a car park. Really?
Then there was another one that I couldn’t get a photo of but which said something to the effect of “Until it was bombed out and destroyed in year blah blah blah, here stood the oldest home in London.” Yeah. But it was bombed, wasn’t it? So it isn’t the oldest house any more, is it? Why does it get a plaque for once being the oldest house. Surely the honour lies in keeping the house standing, not acknowledging that it once did.
Anyway, I digress.
Other than Shepherd’s Market, the best thing that happened today was so London and so unexpected that it made me cry/laugh for a solid ten minutes.
Queenie, Jesus and Wonder Woman.
During the walk today I saw signs that it might be the Queen’s birthday but I was confused because there was absolutely no hubbub, or revelry, or out-of-the-ordinary activity of any kind. Apart, that is, from a lot of crowd management people standing around looking bored, and ropes down the middle of the road looking like they would block off one side, but traffic was moving just like usual. That was all weird but nothing else was going on so it didn’t make sense.
I finally got so curious about it that I asked one of the neon-green people what was going on.
“Excuse me. What is going on here today?”
“Ummm, it’s the Jesus Parade.”
“What? What’s a Jesus Parade?”
“I don’t know.”
Of course I had to see what exactly a Jesus Parade is, so I marched up the hill (where I was told they were gathering) to check it out.
There wasn’t much to speak of really. About a hundred people wearing matching shirts with dead Jesuses on them; some of them praying, some of them doing weird evangelical healing things (I hope they were joking) and most of them yawning and looking bored.
As I passed by, the leaders were getting them all pepped up to go, shouting motivating things like, “It looks like it might start to rain on us. Can I get a Jesus, amen?!” and cranking up the Christian rock.
At that point, I had seen about all I cared to see of the Jesus Parade so I turned the corner and started marching up the next street.
Then the Jesus Parade blew up.
Or it felt like they did.
There was a MASSIVE explosion that shook the buildings, and I knew that some crazy person had just bombed the Jesus people.
But no one was screaming and running. A good but, again, confusing sign.
I carried on hesitantly, and another HUGE blast rattled the windows up the length of the street.
I caught the eye of a doorman who had jumped as high as I had, and we both laughed and laughed. He told me, “I am ex-military and that scared the shit out of me!”
I asked him what the hell was going on (he didn’t seem worried that the Jesus parade might be under attack).
He happily told me, “It’s the Queen’s Birthday! That’s the 21 – or is it 41? – cannon salute.”
“Ah yes! So it is her birthday! I forgot she has two!”
Then Wonder Woman appeared, looking confused.
“What is going on??”
“It’s the Queen’s Birthday!”
“Oh of course! I should have known!”
And she flew away.
What killed me was not that this was weird, but that it felt so normal when it was happening. It all made sense. Queens, explosions, Jesus Parades, Wonder Women. Just another day out in London.
When I turned to leave, I started putting the facts together and the ridiculousness of it all just destroyed me. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t stop the tears. It was fantastic.
The next walk might be more interesting, or beautiful, or friendly, but I am betting it won’t have an event like that one. Then again, this is London…
See you next time!
33 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
Quick update from the future: now that this project is finished, I’m off on another adventure! Keep in touch on my new blog at Three Miles an Hour. See you there!