Event Summary: A Different Day in London

Now that I work in London, going there has become more of a chore than a delight. Although I appreciate the shows, exhibitions and bookshops, I rarely venture on its streets for any other reason. So it is a rare delight to be able to share some of London’s secrets with my sons. I took a day off on Wednesday because we had tickets for Les Miserables and we decided to combine it with a little extra.

So we took one of the guided London Walks around the legal quarter of London, the Inns of Court. A great opportunity to nosy around some hidden passageways and admire tranquil private gardens and old architecture (open to the public, but mostly unknown to the public) just moments away from the craziness of High Holborn and Fleet Street.

Isn’t it funny how certain privileged classes recreated the Oxbridge world wherever they went (Eton, Harrow and then barristers’ chambers) so that they need never leave its gracious bubble?

Although I’d read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (and a few of his other works), I’d never seen the show, nor even listened much to the music. As for my boys, they only had a vague idea about the story (and for my younger son, who is not a musical enthusiast, it was decidedly too long). I did get my revolutions wrong when I tried to explain the background to them. I thought it harked back to the 1848 revolution, but it turns out it was a very brief revolutionary streak in 1832. I also thought that Hugo had written the book around the time of the Paris Commune, but it appeared in 1862. However, it is true that he was not very keen on monarchy, that he was defiant and vocal about poverty and the return to autocratic rule after the original French revolution. As my older son said: ‘The French have had a lot of revolutions, haven’t they?’

There were some differences to the book, but luckily it has been so long since I read it, that they didn’t jar too much. The main difference I observed (aside from an attenuation of the social critique) was that Éponine becomes a much more sympathetic and less complex character in the musical adaptation, while Gavroche appears to be almost comic relief, with an added element of bathos when he dies. There was far less time to become emotionally attached to Fantine or any of the revolutionaries, so their deaths were not all that poignant, although the music tried its best to tug at your heartstrings.

In conclusion, there is a lot of truth in that old Samuel Johnson saying: ‘Who is tired of London is tired of life’. There is always something new to discover there.



18 thoughts on “Event Summary: A Different Day in London”

  1. Lots to explore around that area. Have you been to Sir John Soane’s museum? Well worth a visit. I’ve only managed one of those London walks and loved it. You’ve made me think I should try and fit another in.

    1. Yes, I loved the Museum, which I only got to visit once I was living abroad and coming to London for work. I thought I had written a post about it, but no, I only posted some pictures. Clearly, I was too exhausted at the time!

  2. I agree, there’s always something new or interesting to discover in London if you know where to look. It’s easy to forget that are so many wonderful buildings and curiosities within relatively easy reach, and those guided walks are a great way to experience them. What did your sons think of the walk? I just wonder if they’re more geared towards adults?

    1. They both liked it, which was a pleasant surprise, as up to about 2 years ago the younger son would rant and try to run away if we had to do a guided tour of a chateau or other place in France. The guides are really quite brilliant (jobbing actors, I suspect) and they can adapt to different audiences. There were quite a few young teens in this group.

  3. I’m so glad you found some new places to explore with your sons, Marina Sofia. That’s the thing about London, isn’t it? There really is always something there waiting for you. I’m glad you got the chance to see the musical, too. It is different to the novel, but I think it’s still a fine show. And thank you for sharing those great ‘photos.

  4. I really like Les Mis. There’s only about four tunes in the whole thing, they just get mashed up together, but the mashups are smart and sound good, and because it’s through-sung, I’ve always thought of it as almost an opera. (Some of the music is properly operatic in its difficulty, too, like a lot of Cosette’s and the entirety of Bring Him Home.)

    1. You are right, there weren’t that many memorable tunes and there were some scenes that could have done with more speaking and less singing, but it was a great experience nevertheless.

  5. I loved those walks when I lived down there – perfect for all those Glaswegians who popped down for a visit and seemed to expect me to have accumulated an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things London in the short time I’d been there. A walk, the London Dungeon or the Tower depending on age and temperament, and a show, then happy goodbye waves at Euston station… “Till next time!”

  6. Sounds like a fun day out! And yes, you are right about the privileged and their little cloisters, and your son is right about the French – they really *did* have a lot of different revolutions! :))

  7. I only lived in London for 6 mnths a long time ago, but I walked and walked and walked, devouring the scenes and sights and sounds. Your post brought back lots of happy memories of stumbling across amazing pockets of green in the most unexpected places 🙂

  8. Ah, London, I only got to visit once and would gladly go back. I had a quick look at the Inns of Court. I had just read an Ian McEwan novel set there. Fascinating world.

  9. Sounds lovely Marina Sofia! I totally agree about the Inns of Court, walking through is exactly like walking through an Oxbridge College. It’s very odd to then emerge onto the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street! Mind you, I’ve overheard some *very* interesting conversations in those streets…

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