I’m packing on a stressful Wednesday night when I realise with perturbation that this will be the longest period of time that I’ve ever been off work. Ever. Packing for two and a bit weeks – four cities, one seaside town – is harder than you might think, especially as everything has to go into one rucksack so that I don’t have to pay any baggage charges when I eventually fly. I decide that the essentials are these: passport, credit card, contact lens solution, dancing shoes. And we’re off…
It’s hot hot hot when I hit London, especially in our tiny student room at the LSE. But it costs half a crown a night and is just a hop from Goodge Street so who’s complaining? We retire to the basement cosiness of the New Bloomsbury Set for Vedettes and on the walk home bump into the eminent Richard Dyer. What a gentleman, and such a perfect Bloomsbury encounter. I sleep hotly but soundly in the comforting hum of central London.
Next morning the sky is cloudy but the BT Tower soars over the breakfast terrace. Down on the street London is branded all to hell for the Olympics. The opening ceremony is this evening and the city is palpably excited, but oddly quiet, almost deserted in parts. On more than one street corner Olympic volunteers outnumber regular civilians.
First port of call is the V&A exhibition, ‘British Design, 1948–2012’. Really beautiful and beautifully staged, if a little oddly chosen in parts (I suspect the interior of Damien Hirst’s ‘Pharmacy’ boozer doesn’t seem that important to many people outside London). Hats, furniture, platform games and Concorde all seem perfectly fresh and exciting in a new context, though the typography on the Festival Of Britain stuff is as perfectly executed as anything that came in the fifty years after.