London, my London

Mario López-Goicoechea
4 min readMar 28, 2016

34 Tite Street might not sound like the sort of address your brain registers immediately as worth remembering for any particular reason. But if I were to add the following quote: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”, then, you might be in a better position to have a go at guessing who I am writing about.

Or perhaps not. After all, Oscar Wilde, the author of the quote above, was such a prolific writer that it would be hard for anyone to keep up with all his witticisms and putdowns. On cynicism, though, he nailed it. This was not just a throwaway phrase (I do not think he ever said anything that was unintentional or accidental) but an acute observation of the society in which Wilde lived.

Wilde was on my mind as I cycled on Battersea Bridge Road towards Beaufort Street en route to Portobello Road from Brixton Market. It was only a fleeting thought, however, caused by the familiar sight of the sun-drenched Embankment on my right. I had been on this very road a few days before as part of my three-stadium bike-tour. Seeing the long straight thoroughfare again reminded me of Cavafy’s poem The Place. That’s when Wilde made his unplanned cameo. CP Cavafy, one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century had been heavily influenced by William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

It was not just the combination of cycling near SW3, where Wilde’s former residence, 34 Tite Street was, and the Irish poet’s influence on the Greek one that reminded me of The Place. It was also some of the lines from the poem which suited the flat-looking and almost noise-free streets I was biking along. Drayton Gardens, Gloucester Road and Princes Diana Memorial Playground lent themselves to the nostalgia-coloured verses: “You shall not find new places; other seas/you shall not find. The place shall follow you/And you shall walk the same familiar streets/and you shall age in the same neighbourhood/and whiten in these same houses.” I kept thinking of the lives lived behind the high-ceilinged, oak-floor terraced houses that flanked me along the way. It always happens when I am out and about in London, whether on foot or bicycle. I often wonder: who lives behind that closed door? What are their lives like? What are their dreams and hopes?