We have arrived in London, which feels like the melting pot of the world. We are thrilled with our decision to hire a car to take us from Heathrow Airport to our digs on Abbey Road – yes, the road immortalized (can a road be immortal?) on a Beatles album. The roads are very narrow, cars very fast and of course all of the action is on the other side of the street from our norm in the U.S. Our driver, Abdul, tells us he is Persian and that his family was from Afghanistan, where they had lived for generations. The family was forced to flee when he was not yet 10 years of age; he and his sister rode donkeys across the border, trying not to look at the bodies of an earlier group of refugees, killed by Russian artillery. That was 40 years ago and today he is grateful to live in peace. He tells us that the highway that circles London is about 140 miles long and that it does not encompass Greater London. We marvel at the giant presence of this city whose name we are told was coined by the ancient Romans when they moved in.
Our rental apartment is in a converted church, which is charming. I am struck by the irony of an empty church looking out at droves of devoted followers collected across the street taking photos of Abbey Road Studios. They are very brave (or something) as they plunge onto the crosswalk on a busy street full of drivers unconcerned by their celebratory stroll (did I mention people drive at a fair clip here?), recreating the famous album cover. We walk off a dose of jet lag and find the former home of Sir Thomas Beecham, a composer and impresario who had a major influence on Britain’s classical music in the early to mid 20th century. He even wrote a book – a biograpy of his favorite composer, entitled “Frederick Delius.” Everywhere we walk, we encounter British history juxtaposed by the chatter of a host of languages used by passers by. We stop and ask a young lady directions and she has an American accent but uses British slang. Very fun for us.
Real estate here in the heart of west London is not for the faint of heart. A 2,000 square foot townhome can cost 4 million. Pounds, that is, so add half again to estimate the U.S. cost. We look at all the young faces and wonder how they manage.
Today we are surrounded by musical history. Tomorrow we are off to Twickenham.