There are some cities you step into where every cliché you have ever heard rings true. Venice is one of those cities, so detailed in the common consciousness that to visit is to only make real a dream you’ve already lived.
It is perhaps a cliché these days – to be young and into street art. But clichés are clichés for a reason, and there is something in the writing on the wall that speaks to the restless soul in me. Throughout my travels, away from the over crowded attractions I’d visited through a thousand postcards, I was drawn to discrete alleys and chipped walls, drawn to the transience and art of the city: the myriad of quirky and queer murals that adorn walls the world over.
From the infamous haunts of Berlin and East London to Italian underpasses and Morocco’s sandy shores, street art was everywhere – you just had to find it. It was the search that appealed, the short-term nature of graffiti combining with the human desire to capture and categorise. So search I did.
My arrival in London heralded a number of changes. Tuk-tuks and tramadol were swapped for the tube and pints of warm larger; bottled water and roadside pad thai traded for solid English fare and drinking the shower water. The Asian humidity gave way to crisp English wind and I braved it alone, the solidarity of good friends exchanged for the independence of flying solo.
Heathrow was quieter than I expected and customs was thankfully uneventful. I lugged my pack down to the tube, following in the footsteps of a million antipodeans before me. I had directions to my cousin’s house: take the Piccadily Underground to South Kensington, get a bus from the road to Clapham Junction (345 or 49), head up the hill past the KFC and the big ASDA supermarket then take the first left.
Piece of cake, right?
On the tube I lose my ticket. A forgiving employee lets me out; his brief chastisement is far preferable to the cost of another ride. Once I find the right stop the bus is straightforward and it isn’t long before I am hesitantly knocking on the door of a bricked Lavender Hill flat.