Sunday, 4 December 2011

London

Every once in a while you get a rare glimpse of your city from a new or rare angle. Flying back in to London in the early hours of Thursday morning (thanks to a little unplanned flight alteration due to the Heathrow strikes), I had the, I want to say privilege, if that doesn't sound too wanky, of seeing my adopted home from above, lit up in all her glory. She was slowly waking up, stifled beneath her usual blanket of grey cloud, which had the effect of making the lighting which was draped over her all the more beautiful. The familiar places stood out with an unusual clarity, and others made themselves known. I cast my eye over parliament and the eye, westward across the parks and on to the arch of Wembley, thrust defiantly into the clouds as if to say, 'Please, clouds. I see this shit all the time. Bring it on. No mere weather will tame me. I am the heart of England.'
The aeroplane descended, and I gazed. My view continued over residences and five-aside courts, past slow-pulsing streams of traffic and over the familiar-if-only-from-TV-coverage turf of Craven Cottage, balanced precariously on the edge of the ubiquitous Thames. As we dropped further it occurred to me, seeing my home in this way was not only beautiful, but perhaps leads me to an appreciation both of the strength and weaknesses of London, in a way I've had inklings of before. She is at once dynamic and sluggish, a city, like many in Europe, weighed down by the weight of her own history, struggling to move forward and at the same time stay true to everything she has done and all the lives which have come and gone inside her borders. And she is strong, she has presence, she has the benefit of a thousand voices and cultures spread across a million lifetimes, propelling her forward, feeding her inspiration.
She is at once familiar and yet strange, a city in which I could live a hundred years and still not fully understand her entire workings. I think this is part of the reason why, as she slipped away from my sight, draped in her electric finery and her stone monuments, I said to myself, choosing her was the right decision.

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