Saturday, March 25, 2017

Meditations on London

Meditations on London

            London is big, boisterous, and vibrant. My first impression was, “It feels smaller than I thought, but looks bigger than I imagined.” The air was perfumed by petrol. The sound of cabs and busses provided a chorus to the conversations on the streets; provided by people just going about their daily routines.

            Behind all of this is a splendor that is both urban, and organic. St. James Park is a green oasis, just mere meters away from Buckingham Palace. Yet, the city seems to disappear once you’re among the trees.

Then of course there’s The Great Westminster Clock Tower (better known as Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. The first time I saw these was as child, when Nickelodeon (an American cable network) would show Danger Mouse, and Count Duckula. I wondered, “What is Thames?” The network logo would present itself with fanfare, and mirror images of London landmarks reflected onto the surface of that iconic river. It swerves through London like a big serpent, and then empties out into the North Sea.

            As I stood on Westminster Bridge, and took photos, I tried to recreate the Thames logo. I discovered that you can’t exactly recreate it. I got close though. Still, The Thames is very impressive. It’s the vein that flows through London, and brings it life.

            When I heard of the terror attack on March 22nd I was shocked. I was on my way to class, when I saw a BBC news report on a telly in the media center window. The sound was off, but the crestfallen face of the bobby, and the news ticker below, told me everything. I had stood in the exact spot where that attack happened. I visited for the first time in August of 2016. To me, Westminster is the image of grandeur. I couldn’t think of it as anything less than regal. So much so, that I felt I was a bit under-dressed to even be walking there. I wore a red, short-sleeved dress shirt, with navy blue trousers. I looked very patriotic, indeed (for both sides of the Atlantic.) Peggy Carter would have approved.

            I wasn’t the only one that mulled about in short sleeves that day. It was a hot day in London! The city was alive with people everywhere. It wasn’t just tourists either. Even everyday people were about the major landmarks. The monument to Victoria was occupied by Londoners having their lunches. People just sat there to get some air. Not one person was glued to their mobile. Everyone was either talking to a person that was there, or they were observing the world around them. Why wouldn’t they? How could one go to London, and not see it with both eyes open?

            While I found the country town and smaller cities charming. I still found London impressive. Big, loud, but very impressive. It looked how I thought I major city should look. So, when I saw that report about the attack, I honestly did feel heartbroken. I couldn’t picture something like that happening in that area of London. Crime can happen anywhere, but still, it seemed out of place.

            London is a city that can survive anything. It has endured plague, fire, the Blitz, Thatcher (okay, that last one may have been a cheap dig), and now this. It will always endure. I have this funny feeling that even if the rest of the world melted, Britain would be okay. It would just lift off the surface of the Earth, and continue to exist as its own planet. London would just rebuild itself into some sort of space-age capitol. It sort of has done that already. It hasn’t away, and never will. It’s the city that cannot fall, because the people who love that city will not let it fall. An attack like the recent one can’t break the spirit of Londoners. If Nazi bombs in WWII couldn’t do it, nothing can. The resolve of the British public has always been one of, “We don’t know how to quit.” It’s one of the things I love about England. Surrender just isn’t an option.

            If Londinium could be translated accurately, it would mean, “resilient.” At least I like to think so. It’s a city that breaths. It wakes up each morning, and faces the day—good or bad—and then does it all over again the next day. It can’t stop, and no one can stop it.
            There’s a lesson in there for all of us.

            Hold fast.

Text and Photos: copyright Riley Joyce 2017

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