I enjoy free things. This doesn’t make me special, because everyone enjoys free things. Predictably, free events, especially in a city like London, tend to get rather crowded. Last semester (oh so long ago…) I went with a friend to a (free) comedy show called Angel Comedy, and we arrived just soon enough to be the first to be considered to be let in if anyone who had arrived earlier decided to leave. We were a tenacious pair, and wandered around Angel until the second act, when we were let in. Hooray! The comedy was hilarious, and worth the wait. Last Friday I went with a group to Angel Comedy again… and the same thing happened. We were so close to getting in to the first act, but didn’t quite make it. So, we wandered around, poked into Tescos, were reminded that Mother’s Day falls on a different day in the U.K. than in the U.S.A., and then managed to squeeze into the second act. Again, worth it.
For all that I complain living in London is cripplingly expensive (my weekly grocery bill in dollars makes me sad), it’s amazing how easy it is to have fun in London without spending a penny. Yes, it’s a big city, and packed with Londoners and tourists alike taking up space on the tube, in the museums, and everywhere else, but honestly just wandering around the streets and looking at buildings is an adventure. One of my favourite things to do in London is to pick a location, form a vague idea of things to do around there, and then walk around until I find something cool. Anytime I’m near Soho I try to go to St. James park and see the birds again, because there are so many different types, including pelicans. Anytime I go near the city centre on a Saturday I seem to run into some sort of march or demonstration, things I would never see back in my hometown. This city is alive and always changing – just last weekend I spontaneously joined a Climate Change march, and then walked into Trafalgar Square and was shocked to see that the blue cock statue was gone, and had been replaced with a giant horse skeleton with a bow around its leg showing live stock market feed. I had had no idea that the art on the ‘forth plinth,’ as it’s called, was always only temporary.
Closer to home, I went last Thursday to a poetry slam in the Genesis Theatre down the road from Queen Mary, and heard poetry that artists had been perfecting for over a year, and some that had been written at the bar five minutes ago. Their work seemed evocative of the city in general, rooted in the past but always moving and changing. And yes, the event was also free.