Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Realm

LONDON - Happiness gives way to wistfulness whenever I leave England, especially London, with its depth of culture, arts and history - and, now, even great food. Yet, leave I must, to New York, the last stop on my round-the-world trip before returning home to California.

I used the last of my time in London soaking up current offerings in major museums, which the British capital has in abdundance. The Royal Academy of Arts is currently mounting a major exhibition of work by the British artist Anish Kapoor. Over at the National Portrait Gallery, running into January, is a photography exhibit called "Beatles to Bowie,'' which highlights the role photographers played in constructing the public identities of famous pop stars in the 1960s.

Both exhibitions are well worth seeing. But then, so are so many other things in London.

I took-in some scheduled shows and events, but mostly I wandered. This is my favorite thing to do - going on urban walkabout - in big cities, at least those that are pedestrian-friendly. For the most part, despite its ferocious street traffic and congestion, London is hospitable to walkers. This most agreeable to me, as I don't always have a plan in mind when I come to London. Indeed, I don't have to be 'doing' anything to enjoy London.

I am a foreigner here, yet have always felt at home. For my wife, who was born and raised in London, the city was home before she emigrated to America. It's not likely that another former Londoner, William Shakespeare, had the Beatles or Bowie or Twiggy or the Rolling Stones in mind when he wrote lyrically (in "Richard II") of ''this realm, this England,'' but that is the magic of charismatic cities like this one. Trends come and go, but the city's magic endures down the years.

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