Greetings from London! Or ‘London,’ since ‘London’ for us translates into a 20 minute walk to Tulse Hill, then a half hour ride to Kings Cross-Thames Link, then a hop, skip, and a jump to the BL, which I’ve discovered is located in some sort of heavy metal neighborhood where many people on the streets are wearing rockers’ gear.
It’s been an adjustment. We’ve been learning how to regulate the temperature inside the house by turning the water heater on and off, how to flush the second-floor toilet using a handle, how to make coffee by boiling water in a kettle, how to carry groceries in a bag for long distances, and so on and so forth.
While I read all things Wilkean, or Wilkish, at the BL, my wife has been exploring a bit with the kids. Yesterday she was excited about Clapham (‘It’s just like Park Slope!’), and the kids have seen Big Ben and traveled on a bus. My son is especially happy with the doubledecker buses, because they toss him around like a carnival ride.
And here’s the eighteenth-century tie-in: when I stood in the middle of Victoria Station, watching the streams of people go by, I finally had the ‘citizen of the world’ sensation that the Spectator experienced on the Exchange, feeling the energy of an international city.
And standing there in that space made me think that eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism, like many of its earlier versions, always kept a close connection to the kind of commercial urbanity found in London, an urbanity that brought people together from all over the world, for whatever reason.