Day 14 of 80 — Palm Tree

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 14 : Palm Tree

I have a complicated relationship with London. A relationship in phases : initial discovery, seduction, passion, first try, disillusion, second try. For many years, I was visiting it as often as I could, planning weekend or week-long trips. I’d stay in cheap Youth Hostels, go out, make friends, discover the city. Then in 2013, I decided to move here for the first time.

At first, I was staying in a (very cold) room near Mile End, in the East. As I was jogging through the local park one day, a pub had caught my eye ; I was curious, but as I avoid walking alone in parks after dark, I had only seen it in the daytime, when it was closed. So I jumped on the first opportunity —a friend visiting from Brussels— to suggest a visit.

It was an otherworldly vision. In the dark park, only one light was shining. As we got closer, we heard sounds, too : music, voices. And finally, amongst the trees, the pub appeared. A few customers, in hats and tails, were chatting outside over a cigarette. Inside, others seemed to be dancing.

I felt like I was in a film, the story of a secret pub, a ghost pub that only comes to life in the middle of the night, for forgotten souls from earlier days to come and have a drink.

Of course, the reality was much more mundane : there was a fancy dress party that night. We ended up having a great time drinking, talking to the locals,… But for me, The Palm Tree will always be that enchanted pub I saw in the park that night.

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