I was given a new toy for Christmas; a Fujifilm X-T10, so the day after Boxing Day, I headed for London to see what I would see.
I exited Chancery Lane Tube Stop at St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church, made my way around to the front and climbed the steps as countless others had over the centuries. For a moment, I hesitated, surveying Trafalgar Square – Canada House; George IV on his horse, the fountains and lions; Nelson’s Column.
I continued my turn to the left at which point I saw these two, engaged in a fairly intense discussion.
I watched for a moment then followed them out of the square on a journey that ended in a world of light and colour.
On Shaftesbury Avenue were the Queen’s, the Gielgud, the Apollo (where she’d seen the Madness of George III some years before) and the Lyric theatres. Although it was only early afternoon, the clouds made the city dark and the lights of the West End had already begun to gleam.
At the curve in Regent Street at Picadilly Circus, in the distance, between the iconic red double-decker buses, she could see the Duke of York Memorial and part of Westminster Abbey.
Continuing on up Regent Street, the crowds began to thicken as shoppers began mingling with tourists in the Boxing Day sales. They stopped at several shops that weren’t available in his city in the North, or hers in her home country.
Finally, after fighting through the crush for several more blocks, a lane opened out to the right and grateful to escape, they ducked in. And found a crowd log-jammed by the narrower lane.
However, overhead, Faeryland beckoned.
By now, it was almost 4:00; sunset had begun and the lights on Foubert’s Place had begun to glimmer. They decided to brave the crowd because never, in all her years of visiting, and living in London had she ever seen the phenomenon that is Carnaby Street.
Still the cutting edge fashion area it has been since the 1960s, Carnaby Street’s lanes are a little more peaceful. Some tourists come here, having read about it in retrospectives on the 1960s; others happen upon it and come back repeatedly. They found an oasis of peace by the Shakespeare’s Head and got their bearings.
Across from them, Foubert’s Place continued.
To their right, Carnaby Street moved toward Ganton Street.
They wandered toward Ganton Street, stopping in shops, pausing to chat, until they came to the corner. There, to their right, was a line of cafes, tapas bars, pubs, all with patios full of people who’d had the same idea. Time to stop for refreshment. Patios full at the end of December! They finally found a patio with an open table down on Kingly Lane and had a small tea.
By the time they’d finished and decided to continue from where they’d left off, the sun had fully set and the world was transformed.
He stood to leave and stopped for a moment, captured by what he saw there. Although Kingly Lane was still full of shoppers, the night sky seemed to have dropped down to greet them.
As they turned back onto Ganton Street, she was caught by what she saw, this wall of colour that was their path.
Bathed in fuchsia’s glow, they strolled back to Carnaby Street to pick up where they’d left off. It was now long after 4:00, which on a Sunday usually meant the shops had shut … but not today. Carnaby Street was alive with people, in for a meal or in to shop.
“When you’re shooting,” she asked me, “are you just going for the lights, or do you include the people?”
“That depends on the story I’m telling,” I replied. “Sometimes, it’s the whole picture: the people, the young men strutting, the busy street lit by marvelous lights.”
Tonight, it’s her first visit to Carnaby Street: Faeryland made more magical by light and colour; massive, patchwork globes amid myriad and wondrously varied stars, lighting our world. And that’s what this day is all about: friendship, experiences, and light that makes the darkness more bearable. For we look forward to it every year.
Happy Christmas and a Very Merry New Year to all.
I hope you find brilliance and colour, friendship and adventure, and always, a light in the darkness when you need it.