Charing Cross Road


In the late eighties, I was in my early twenties and living in London for the first time in my life. I arrived in London aged 23, having grown up in a large city in Northern England and having spent my early working life in provincial towns. My employer transferred me to London from Scunthorpe. I was working in Hampstead and quickly bought a place by the river in Wapping.

I’d travelled quite extensively in the UK but living in London was different. Being in London was quite simply, a fucking revelation.

I’d always been a reader, a bit of a book worm. Before London, it felt like I had two different forms of consciousness; one where I escaped to my literature, the worlds of Le-Carre or Amis or Waugh and one where I plodded into work, dealt with small people, doing inconsequential things, in incidental towns. These people were nice, safe - they were people like me, I guess, but they were 1 million miles away from the exciting folks that inhabited the world of the books that I read, the music I heard and the films I watched.

On arrival in London these two worlds were smashed together with colossal force - they became one. It felt like I had stepped from the audience onto the stage. Real life was happening all around me and I could take part, participate and shape it. It became instantly obvious to me that London was where I was always meant to be. It was destiny, home, where the grown ups were, the real people. It made me giddy, cynical, experimental, more than occasionally unbearable but most of all, it inspired and excited me. It gave me a sense of potential and ambition. It made me realise that I could shape, even perhaps define events, rather than just read about them.

My days off work during those early years in London were marvellous. My girlfriend and I would wake early to the sounds of the river, stagger out to buy our first coffee to wash away the excess of the previous night and then (and this was the most delightful thing) we would wander. Wander without destination or without a plan. We’d set off on the south bank of the river, walking and talking and we would see where the city took us. Maybe to the Jazz of the Barbican, maybe to the second hand books of the South Bank centre, to the dodgy pubs of Soho, the landscapes of Turner at the Tate or to an impromptu music gig at the Worlds end in Finsbury Park.

The absolute luxury of this, it’s intoxication, was the abandon and intrigue of following your nose, letting one thing lead to another, watching the crowd, following the crowd and discovering, time after time, new experiences - art, sounds, tastes - Life. Not always good of course, some times a little scary or unpleasant but always exciting and often thrilling.

I’m older now. Living in the sticks with a couple of kids and big house in country. I still get a tiny whiff of the euphoric feeling when I pitch up in London for work but I get it more now in another place and that’s when I’m wandering through the almost infinite halls, corridors and possibilities of the web. I love having the time to lazily click from place to place, looking for the new, the innovative, the cool, the challenging, the inspiration. 

It’s not quite Charring Cross road of 1989, you have make do without the smells and tastes. It’s not in 3D but occasionally - in fact, actually, most days, you come across something that’s really quite cool, that maybe changes just slightly, the way you think about stuff or the way you look at the world.

Occasionally, you come across something really cool. Like this  -  Theresa Couchman