I thought it might be a good time to recount my very own and very best London experience (so far) – the actual inspiration for this blog
Camilla Nieman, Second Year History:
My story begins on a grey, rainy day at the end of term last year, sometime in June. The whole day I had been house hunting with three other friends of mine, still without result after having viewed at least eight houses over the last few weeks, and therefore in a very grim mood. That evening one of those friends virtually forced me to go out with her and just dance the frustration off, reminding ourselves to what life has to offer next to house viewings. She told me to meet her at this small pub in Camden called the Spiritual. I had heard of it before, but I never really made the effort to try it out. So that same evening I eventually arrived at a place that from the outside looks quite mysterious, not necessarily like your usual pub. Grateful anyway to have some distraction, I went in only to enter into one of my nowadays favourite London pubs: dark, smoky almost, very small (maybe the size of two average seminar rooms of UCL, or rather the size of Gordon’s café), with a wooden floor, a wall decorated by whoever wants to pick up a crayon and be creative, and a little stage to the right next to the entrance.
At the back of the pub I saw my friend and walked up to her, all the while taking in the crowd, the atmosphere, and above all, the wonderful music (a cover of Otis Redding’s ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’) being sung and played by this guy sitting behind the wooden piano on the stage. It was a Tuesday, which is the night on which Spiritual holds jam sessions, meaning that anyone who wants to can get up on stage and express all of their musical talent – and at the Spiritual, I can tell you, this talent is vast and usually of the highest quality.
I seemed to recognize this smooth, appealing voice, which gave me shivers the moment I walked in and made me feel all warm on the inside. After having greeted her and put my jacket away, I went to the bar to order a drink. I couldn’t help but ask the bartender: ‘Man, this guy really sounds like Michael Kiwanuka, who is he?’ (Just in case you do not know who he is: Michael Kiwanuka is one of my absolute favourite artists, not quite famous (yet)). To which the bearded, longhaired, Italian simply answered: ‘Yeah, it’s him.’
My subsequent reaction came truly unexpected. You know those over-exaggerated reactions girls used to have when they went to see the Beatles for the first time, not able to keep themselves in check at all even if they had wished to? Well, my reaction was of the like, even if I tried to limit it to simply becoming as red as a beetroot and unable to breathe for at least ten seconds. I had wanted to see him perform for at least a year now, since I started listening to his music. How could I ever have imagined this to happen? To randomly bump into him in a tiny pub in Camden? I was out of myself, in some sort of ecstasy. After he sung a few more songs, he came to sit with the rest of the people and just chatted along with everyone else, not behaving any differently from the rest of the people there. I had the chance to briefly speak to him, something which looking back to it now does not seem as something that bizarre, because I realised that (obviously) he is just someone who loves music, like every other person there that evening.
However it may be, I will always remember this night as one of the best London experiences I ever had – maybe even as one of the best experiences in my life so far. I guess it was the whole of it that made it so special, memorable and simply amazing: it was so relaxed, so natural, so very enjoyable in the nicest way. I will always keep being grateful for what this amazing city has to offer me and will always keep searching and being eager for more of such experiences – something I think is not unrealistic to do in a unique place like this.
For those of you who do not know him and want to fall in love with his music (and maybe a bit with him as well), here is a link to his first CD that I cannot stop playing:
Featured image credit: Paloma Portela Torres