When I lived in the UK, pubs were a big part of my social life — the meeting place of choice for most of the people I knew. A “swift half” at lunchtime; “a few drinks” after work; “Sunday lunch” — all became part of the fabric of my world. While I entertained, and was entertained by, friends from the ex-pat community at home, my English friends seemed to prefer, or just expect, that meeting to socialise took place on neutral — licensed — territory.
Pubs are such an integral part of British life, certainly as I experienced it. Even the smallest hamlet seemed to have at least one pub. One town I lived in had 17 within easy walking distance. I never did explore them all, but it was obvious that each had its own character, including a few that seemed to exist solely as a meeting place for a tiny, quite specific community.
The undercroft of London’s Southbank Centre is a famous skate spot; a meeting place for that community of young (mainly) men who — like the boychild — love skateboarding. Decorated with fabulous-coloured graffiti, the area is a kind of spiritual home for London skaters.
While pubs and skate parks are meeting places in the sense of people gathering to share in communal activities, most areas of human habitation also contain landmark spots which, because of some distinctive feature that makes them easy to describe and identify, become quite literally places to meet. One of these is the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, which tops a memorial foundation built in 1992, in commemoration of Lord Shaftesbury. The statue was created by Alfred Gilbert, and was one of the first to be cast in aluminium. Like the Lions in Trafalgar Square, Eros is so recognizable that it’s an ideal place to arrange to meet.
Rail, subway and bus stations are also popular and logical meeting places. Be warned though, when you agree to meet someone at the entrance to a tube station, make sure you agree WHICH entrance. I once missed a meeting because I was waiting for a colleague (who knew where we were meant to be going) at an entrance/exit to Bank Station. I didn’t realise there are about eight of these, and assumed he’d emerge from the same one as me. I was wrong!
Airports, especially international terminals, are quite a special kind of meeting place. They are huge, brightly-lit public spaces where normally reserved people will break free from the crowd and burst into tears at the sight of loved ones from who they may have been separated for a long time. I don’t know who the man in the photo was meeting, but I hope that he or she appreciated the flowers.
Meeting Places is this week’s Travel Theme at Where’s My Backpack. Pop over to see Ailsa’s wonderful photos.