Everybody Needs a Place to Think

Thinking is the greatest torture in the world for most people.
Luther Burbank

Having just spent six months in a small Colombian village with dirt roads, ambling mules and lazy afternoons spotted with siestas, I’ve come back to London this time with a slightly different approach.

I’m on a mission to savour the beautiful little moments in life, walk a bit slower, smile more, occasionally actually allow myself to make eye contact with a stranger, appreciate this incredible city without letting the chaos and madness of every day life in it overwhelm me and suck me into its vortex.

In the morning rush, I look around and people are visibly stressed. A lot of 9-5 Londoners seem very serious in the morning. Serious and on a mission, fast walkers, robots.  A year ago, I’m sure my morning face looked similar.

That said, it’s not easy to create a little bubble of personal space when you’re toe to heel with the commuter walking in front of you, fighting for elbow space on the tube and stumbling over confused tourists stopping in the middle of the pavement while you’re on your way to work.

So it’s nice to see the benches lined up on South Bank these days that say “Everybody needs a place to think.”

We probably don’t do enough of that. Just thinking, that is. Sitting and thinking without watching the time, texting or chatting. I know I don’t. But London is actually full of places made for just that, especially with all of the green spaces we have access to in the city. As part of my new outlook, I’m going to make a point of taking advantage of them more often.

One of my favorite places to sit and think is at the end of the dock down by the OXO Tower. I did an internship back in 2004 with a company whose offices were right on the river. I ate my lunch on the dock every day, walked over Blackfriars Bridge twice a day. It was a brilliant time of my life so being there always calls on those memories.

So I took a picture of it the other day, my dock… It’s just a dock, nothing special really, but it’s my favorite place in London just to sit and think. There’s a certain slice of peacefulness to be found there (just don’t go and ruin it now, will you?!)

As for this pigeon, roosting right smack in front of me on the steps of St. Paul’s, he’s mastered the art of calm.
He can think (or, more likely, not think) anywhere.

So, where’s your favorite place to think in London?
Why? What makes it special to you? 

7 comments on “Everybody Needs a Place to Think

  1. One of my favourite bench plaques on the South Bank reads: “Memorial To The Unknown Husband • Often Imagined • Much Desired • Never Found”.

    And one of my favourite places to sit and think, and popular with many others judging by its many bench plaques, is Mount Street Gardens, one of those easy-to-miss ‘pocket’ parks that punctuate London’s fabric: http://www.mayfair.org.uk/squares-and-parks/mount-street-gardens.

    If you find yourself there, also look out for the Tadao Ando installation in front of The Connaught: http://www.maybourne.com/uploadedFiles/Tadao-Ando-water-feature-at-The-Connaught.pdf which provides a gentle halfway house/decompression zone between the quiet of the Gardens and the hustle and bustle of the rest of London.

    Good luck with remaining relaxed in the face of London’s morning rush hour on the tube. My recommendation to anyone with road sense and basic physical capability is to commute by bike. For me, my London journeys act as stress-free periods before and after work when my mind concentrates solely on cycling and does not get bogged down with work/home worries. Being able to predict my time of arrival with certainty removes a lot of stress, as does the physical exercise. It also helps ‘shrink’ London in terms of travel time, allowing me to discover and enjoy so many more of London’s secrets. And you’re always guaranteed a seat…

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful comment, and with links as well!. I have yet to come across the bench about the unknown husband but next time I’m down there I will keep an eye open for it for sure.

      I will definitely check out the Mount Street Gardens. I think I may possibly have been there but I have no idea what it was called so maybe it’s not the same place I’m thinking of. And the Tadao Ando installation… I enjoyed reading that link you sent and the fact that it’s called Silence 🙂

      As soon as I find a job, I’ll be flat hunting and one of my requirements is going to be that I must be able to cycle or walk to work. Before I left London, I spent a year living close enough to walk to work every day – 45 minutes, but still better than public transport. Like you said about cycling, I always felt I arrived at work and back home with a clear head. It’s so nice to avoid the stress of public transport!

      Hope you had a lovely weekend.

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