I left work yesterday with a sense of indefatigable purpose. I had set up the blog, and I was on my first mission. Ally-chan, a sweet Scottish friend of mine in the world of all-things Japanese, had invited me to an event on the theme of Astroboy (the Japanese comic character). I was hazy on the precise details, but it was cultural, edgy and perfect to get me started on my new work/life challenge. I was about to force myself back into the London that I had somehow accidently drifted out of.
In recent months I found myself reading articles and blogs about life in London with ever increasing incredulity. They told of life in a city of breath-taking excitement, complete with a giddying plethora of cultural attractions that are arguably unmatched in the world. Yet, this was my city, and the stories they were telling just didn’t match the life I was living. Somewhere, in the endless conveyer belt of early mornings, over-crowded commutes and long unfulfilling hours at work, I had got so bogged down with the negatives that I had forgotten I live in one of the most vibrant communities that has ever existed. I had to go back out there and find it again. And Astroboy was going to help me on my mission.
While shaking my life up and dusting it down I am also, in a vague kind of way, planning to take more exercise and be a bit more proactive about everything. So, I packed up and left work on foot, with a real jaunt in my step that I was doing so well and it was still day one. A real cultural find, and a lucky coincidence that Ally-chan had invited me on this particular day.
The walk took about 15 minutes more than the tube would have, but the pavements were less congested and it was a gorgeous evening. There was so much life as I strode through the roads that skirt the top of Oxford Street. There were little eddies of people, nobbly little shops, bright steamy restaurants, bubble-like taxis… I resolved to take it all in. Make memories, and remember these things, because these thoughts will be the ones lining your last days when all you can do is reflect on the life you once led.
I arrived in the allotted pub, and after an hour or so of tingly cider and hot pub grub, we repaired down High Holborn in the direction of Lincolns Inn Fields. I love this area of London. It’s so loud and central, but then suddenly there is this unexpected rabbit warren of streets and alleys which is satisfyingly Dickensian. We were headed to The Hunterian Museum, a place I had never heard of, which transpired to be inside the Royal College of Surgeons, a place I had heard of, but could certainly not have placed on a map until yesterday. It’s a surprisingly grand building, with big white pillars facing boldly out into the Fields. I must have seen it before, but somehow it had floated over my awareness, merging into a sea of faded imperial architecture, and failing to penetrate a mind that was probably spinning with committee meetings and Facebook.
We were late, and scurried into the lecture theatre, creeping into seats at the very back. An anime expert was giving a short introduction, which suddenly ended with dimming lights and increasing volume. The sweetly Japanese and childish voices of the Astroboy theme filled the room, and we all leant forward in anticipation, immediately channelling our inner child that loves a cartoon. I suspect I wasn’t the only viewer to retract slightly when I realised it was to be a black and white feature, but within minutes this was forgotten and I was immersed in Astroboy’s fantastical and simple world.
A spaceship had landed, containing a gravely ill space soldier. Only Astroboy could break into the space ship, but then how to cure this soldier? On Astroboy’s hunch that an army of tiny space microbes were taking over the body of the ailing space soldier, our hero and an associate (I’m a little hazy on the names) shrank themselves down to the size of atoms and headed into his body to fight back.
It was glorious of course. Childish simplicity and wonderful sound effects, with a storyline that pulled me straight back to traipsing home from school and watching cartoons on TV. We left as the next feature film was starting, and walked to a nearby pub for more cider and some tiger prawns. My mind stayed with jaunty little Astroboy, and lingered there on the tube ride home, and the walk from the tube station to my flat.
We all like to identify with the protagonist of films and TV, and yet there was so much in Astroboy that I wanted for me. Happy, indomitably optimistic and cheerful, and resolute in the face of challenges or even seemingly impending disaster, he was quite a role model. And as he had battled the army of space microbes inside the huge body of the space soldier, so I was battling the crowds and culture inside the huge metropolis that is London. Astroboy was looking for a cure. I was finding my London life...