Taking a flight into London Heathrow from an easterly destination is a treat. You will find the plane sweeps over three quarters of the city, missing the northern reaches, but giving a view and experience, which in itself is worth the price of your ticket. Planes for London City Airport sweep along the river, allowing passengers to take in, through 30 centimetres squared of reinforced Perspex, the Olympic Park and the pear shaped topography of the Isle of Dogs. As the plane tilts on its right the northern reaches open up, bringing together the parallel footballing universes of Wembley Stadium and The Emirates into one glorious panorama. A U-turn takes the plane back over south London and the green expanses of Richmond Park and Kew Gardens, so large they can induce palpitations, the immensity of undulating greenery a shocking contradiction to conventional expectation. Travelling back towards London City Airport the plane flies over Southwark, and the pinnacles of the Shard and the glass towers of the City of London. When the plane tilts to the right the horizon of the city appears to reach above the tops of these monstruous glass towers, which both reflect and become camoflagued by the greyness of the surrounding urban, appearing only in outline, as if laid down flat, regaled in an invisibility cloak. Such sparlking views send a frisson of excitement through the spine of the returning Londoner, knowledge that despite weather, chaos, clouds, noise and pollution, and despite the favourable qualities of the place they are travelling from, this, here, my friend, is where it is. This is the place where free speech, democracy, capitalism, greed, money, creativity, passion, innovation, diversity, acceptance, tolerance, weirdness, meritocracy and opportunity are all at. Looking down on it all, knowing that I am about to be plunged back into it, I can’t help but inwardly sing back the chorus to Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, smoking the big apple mind.
Arriving into London: excitement on a clear day