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August 12, 2013 / mintcustard

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner.

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I am at heart a townie. Whilst I appreciate a beautiful view, an unspoiled landscape or a wide and tranquil strand of sand, I like to get back to civilisation. Country lanes look inviting on Miss Marple but I prefer my roads to have four lanes and lights down the middle.

I love all cities, cold cities like Toronto have their subterranean paths to keep the citizens moving around, hot cities like Grenada have shady Alhambra and cool fountains to provide respite for everyone. My favourite city of all has to be London. For generations my family has been born and bred in the city, until it came to me! My parents in their wisdom moved away so I have a different city on my birth certificate. Fortunately the one they chose means I still have Thames water running through my veins.

A city is alive, living, breathing, evolving and ageing. In the midst of the city, you don’t notice the changes but a little book I discovered a few weeks ago in a local charity shop immediately transported me back to the London of my youth.

The Thames at work.A child of the Sixties, trips up to town were exciting. The river still had boats that carried cargo, the air was full of diesel fumes and fast food meant a savaloy and chips from a greasy spoon. Ladybird books wonderful illustrations capture the spare nature of the animal cages at the zoo. They remind me how little traffic and how few bicycles there were on the road. One shows the Science Museum when it was full of machines in glass cases and the most exciting thing to do was turn handles to make the steam engine models move. Emphasis is placed on looking from afar at the many magnificent buildings and walking from place to place whilst learning facts about the architects and planners.

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One page especially caught my eye, London Airport’s page. Before Gatwick, Stanstead, City or even Luton Airport, London, Heathrow Airport was the only place to travel from. For many air travel was inconceivable but a day trip to the airport would allow you to dream. The airport authorities encouraged this by providing observation decks, amusement arcades and even pony rides for the children. Celebrities didn’t attempt to slip out of the back door, they had their arrivals read out over the loudspeakers, along with details of the aircraft and their far flung destinations.

Did anyone have a pony ride at London Airport in the 60’s.

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