While we were in England, we got the train from Bournemouth to visit London. London was an important part of my life as soon as I was old enough to be allowed to travel there without adult supervision. Some people are naturally country folk, some people are city people; even though I grew up in small villages and quaint towns, that was never where I really wanted to be. I was curious to see how London had changed since I last saw it, nearly 10 years ago.
Tower Records holds a special place in my heart. The store in Piccadilly Circus was one of the places I would try to visit every time I traveled to London. Back in the early 80s the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street was the place for obscure music, but by 1990 they had jacked up the prices and cleared out the unpopular stuff. Tower kept the prices reasonable and had an unrivaled selection of imports and obscurities.
In case anyone’s slightly interested, my new Birkenstocks are Richmond in Cordura. I think I’m going to have to order a second pair and stash them away. See, when I listened to the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio series season 2, I didn’t feel that the whole Dolmansaxlil sub-plot was excessive at all. Like Douglas Adams, I had had the experience of walking the length of Oxford Street, visiting every wretched shoe shop, in the futile hope that one of them might have a pair that would actually fit my feet.
We walk to the waterfront again in the morning. In the daylight we can see how shabby all the buildings are. It was once forbidden to take photographs of the bridges; they were considered military targets. Nobody seems to care now. We go in to a featureless shabby building. It turns out to be the bank; there’s a guard behind a screen in the outer lobby. Everything looks typically Soviet—faded painted official notices, dim lighting, institutional color paintwork, bored clerks.
We went to the Neuruppin town library and browsed through the bookshelves. Many of the old DDR-produced books are still on the shelf; they can’t afford to replace them all at once. I had a look through some of them. The Modern English textbook was interesting. It started off in the usual way: “This is John. John lives in a house in England. John has a dog called Fido.” However, by chapter 8, John was attending Trades Union rallies and campaigning for workers’ rights.