A Flaneurs View of London: Wandering Without Purpose
Wandering Without Purpose
When researching the purpose of a Flaneur, I was bombarded with words such as walking, wandering, strolling and sauntering. It was not a term I was familiar with, and after spending some time reading different definitions of the term, I concluded that a Flaneur is not only someone who wanders without a purpose or destination, but instead seeks to observe society. When considering the size and range of places in London, I realised that this task could become increasingly complicated.
The idea of aimlessly wandering around a city as big as London, and hoping to find enough interesting places to write about, filled me with concern. The main problem when wandering aimlessly is how to guarantee that you will observe interesting sights and places throughout the day. When the four of us arrived at Kings Cross, we were slightly apprehensive about our task, but looked forward to seeing what different things we could find. Faced with a multitude of tube stations and possible areas to wander, we were confronted by the issue of where to begin. We did not want to wander around areas already familiar to most people, but wanted to observe things that people are typically not aware of in London.
The main problem when wandering aimlessly is how to guarantee that you will observe interesting sights and places throughout the day. When the four of us arrived at Kings Cross, we were slightly apprehensive about our task, but looked forward to seeing what different things we could find.
So Big Ben and Buckingham Palace were not options. Jessica recalled visiting a street named Brick Lane years ago, and remembered that it had interesting shops and buildings. She suggested that we could use this as a starting point to begin wandering. So after some amusing confusion in the underground, which immediately alerted everyone around us that we were tourists, we eventually ended up at Liverpool Street station. According to the map app on my iPhone we were a ten minute walk from Brick Lane. After twenty minutes we were completely lost, and at one point we somehow wandered past that iconic cone shaped building, so often seen in photos of London, known as the Gherkin. It seemed that even with the aim to stick to the lesser known parts of London, we invariably ended up wandering into recognisable areas. After briefly pausing again to check the map, we headed off in another direction, and this time found an interesting wooden structure. I later learnt that the sculpture was called The Paleys Upon Pilers, and was erected to commemorate the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived in Aldgate (the home of the sculpture).
Additionally it was built to mark the High Street 2012 for the Olympics. It was fascinating to encounter such a beautiful elaborate sculpture in the middle of what seemed to be a business district filled with skyscrapers. It seemed that when we eventually reached our starting point, we had already wandered past many more interesting areas other than Brick Lane itself.
When we got there, the street was completely different from our expectations, and we were left unsure of where to go next. However when we wandered down the street, we found another side street which featured a range of brilliant pieces of street art. It proved that getting lost was a more productive way of observing different areas and aspects of London other than a planned itinerary of where to wander. What originally started as a very basic idea, seemingly without any direction; developed into a varied insight into different areas of London. From street art to markets and performances, everywhere we wandered provided different and surprising points of interest for observation. In a city as big as London, you don’t need to plan a trip, as there is a vast multitude of things to see and do. Ultimately the trip was more interesting and enjoyable as each sight was something new and unexpected.