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Friday, October 20, 2006

More London Ruminations

This week brought me to London again, a trip which gave rise to a few more ruminations:

I do not know any other city in the world that is as multi-ethnic as London is. Everywhere I go in London the people around me are a mix of colours, shapes and sizes, and the cacophony of languages from all around the world is music to my ears. Some would argue that New York City is as diverse as London, it not more, but I think the size of NYC is such that there are areas which are very homogeneous (Flatbush comes to mind...). London is also a big city and yet almost everywhere you go the population is heterogeneous. This thought brought back memories of my first visit to Boston 13 years ago; after a couple of days in the city I suddenly caught myself thinking: where are all the blacks?

The only place in London where I saw a sizable group of people that were mostly white and English-speaking, was at the theatre. (I went to see "The 39 steps" at the Criterion in Picadilly Circus, which I enjoyed very much). But no worries: stepping out into the streets of Soho and things were back to normal.

I also had time for a visit to the Jewish Museum in Camden Town. They are currently running an exhibition called "Identities" which displays photographs from various Jewish families and Jewish activities in London. There is also a film in which English Jews are interviewed about their identity. Again, even in the narrow Jewish community of England (less than half a percent of the total population), the ethnic diversity is striking. Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, secular and religious Jews, young and old - all proclaiming their allegiance to the kingdom while at the same times grappling with what it means to them to be Jewish.

On my way back to the hotel to pick my stuff and go to the airport, I made an impromptu stop at Charing Cross road, for a quick stroll around Foyle's, "London's legendary bookstore" as I believe it labels itself. I haven't been to Foyle's in over than a decade. I remembered it from my last visit as an amazing bookstore, but this time I was rather disappointed. I guess that with the proliferation of the "mega bookstores" - Barnes & Noble, Borders and of course - the grandness of Foyle's has somewhat diminished (at least in my eyes). I mucdh more enjoyed the few minutes I spent at Bookends, opposite Foyle's, a store which has retained its intimate book-browsing experience. I got a few Asterix books for my son.

And this impulsive stop at Charing Cross did not, sadly, leave me enough time to walk up Oxford's street to Selfridge's for my Krispy Kreme doughnut...

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