Trafalgar Square review
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Noise. Traffic noise. People noise. The sound of water falling on the fountains. Flags flapping against their metal poles and the rubber on the bus doors squealing shut, motorbikes and bikes and cycles and cars... three million kids and six million parents. All standing with their cameras and handbags, rooting around for tissues and maps. Trafalgar Square is a very busy place.
Trafalgar Square is where all the crowds come to celebrate. If we ever win the World Cup again (it's never going to happen), then this place will be packed out like we won the war. And if the unions want to complain about the government and their latest round of funding cuts, then this is where everyone marches to for a big rally at the end. They build a big stage at the base of Nelson's Column so everyone can stand there listening to the lefties take it in turns on the microphone. They gather with their placards and banners and wave them around for five hours. Feed the world! Stop the war! Ban the bomb! Free Nelson Mandela! It's all Margaret Thatcher's fault! Blah blahdy blah. Welcome to Trafalgar Square.
I preferred it when the place was full of pigeons. The pigeons knew how to gather. You never saw them protesting about anything. They'd just strut around the pavement waiting for someone to drop their dinner. Tourists would come here with little polystyrene tubs of nuts and let them land on their hands. Unfortunately the council has banished them as a health hazard now (the pigeons, I mean, not the tourists). If you come here early in the morning then you can sometimes see a Harris hawk sitting on a falconer's arm. He lets it fly around the rooftops for a while, just so the pigeons definitely get the message: "If you ever dare to return to Trafalgar Square, then you will DIE!"
They should try the same thing with the guys who stand outside the National Gallery dressed up as robots and Yoda. It's like a police line-up of stone statues. They've rigged up some kind of scaffolding contraption under their flowing robes and feet, to make it appear as if they're floating in mid-air. Then they stand there all day waiting for a tourist to take a photo and pounce -- Ha ha! You took a photo of me! I want five pounds! Give me five pounds! Other beggars sit there drawing chalk pictures onto the pavement (thirty feet from where they keep all the Turner's and Rembrandt's), sketching it out at supersonic speed before the rain comes and washes it away.
And then there's the weather... it always seems to be freezing cold in Trafalgar Square. The sun is shining bright white and drowning out the colours this morning, but the water spray coming out of the fountains is like liquid nitrogen -- no joke! If you get a bit of that on your skin then it will flash freeze you down to the bone.
I'm sitting here watching the crowds and everybody seems to be in a tremendous rush to get things done. They marshal their kids into position and assemble their selfie-sticks and wait for everyone to get out of the way and -- Snap! -- a quick picture of Nelson's Column. Then Snap! a picture of their kids sitting on the lions. Then Snap! a picture of their husbands looking moody in front of the fountains. Tick, tick, tick those three things off their must-do in London list. Then they have a quick look at their watch and jump on the bus so they don't fall behind in their itinerary. When they get home their neighbours will ask them whether they went to Trafalgar Square and they'll say, oh yeah... we did that in five minutes on Monday morning.
Slow down, people! Slow down for chrissakes. Slow your heartbeats down and have a look around -- it's not everyday that you're standing in the centre of London. Did you notice those big bronze reliefs of Nelson's battle scenes around the base of his column? Did you stare up at the statue of that one-eyed and one-armed man? If that's not the world's grandest statue to a half-blind and handicapped man, then I don't know is. I bet you didn't even have a proper look.
If you stand on the little balcony to the left of the steps leading up to the National Gallery then you'll get a great view down Whitehall, with Big Ben in the distance. And whilst you're there... can you see that little statue of Charles I sitting on his horse (just behind Nelson's Column)? That's the very centre of London. You've got Parliament and Big Ben five minutes down Whitehall, Leicester Square right behind you, and Piccadilly Circus five minutes to the right. Buckingham Palace is a short walk down the Mall (through Admiralty Arch).
If you have some time on your hands and you don't mind a bit of exercise, then you can try the walk that I do when I'm bored: all the way up the Strand and Fleet Street to the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral.
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