Monthly Archives: March 2007

They removed all trace that anything ever happened here.

Memories of London come flooding, unbidden, into my head one morning at work as I innocently type an address label for the city. Memories of talking, walking, sitting, looking, resting, laughing and of not realising how much I loved the place, its honest communal air, its grimy stones and slabs and wood and water, until I learned that there was a world outside it… always brightly lit, these memories, always on warm, sunny days from ill-defined years. I wonder, are everyone’s memories similarly golden in tone? Is it just because of the heatwave summers and the smog over London – we didn’t really get much in the way of weather, there? Or is it the SAD: the only times worth holding on to are the times when the sun shone life-bestowingly down on me? Or is it because that’s when we, they, you took the photographs?
childhood
London is like being seduced by a (much) older man: you know you’re not the first, and a small part of you’s apprehensive, disgusted even (thinks ‘this is cheap’, and ‘this is dirty’), and you really don’t know why you want it, but by God you do – it’s experienced, this silvery lover of yours, it knows just how to make you feel good: feel tiny on Fleet Street and the Square Mile, or feel invincible and ten feet tall at Camden Lock, towering and triumphant as the wind chimes sound in the market, as the sunlight sparkles on the sluggish canal and the fresh piercings of emergent teenagers from Cold Steel and the World’s End across the street. London knows every trick in the book and London isn’t afraid to use it; London with its phallic towers and its snakey alleyways, London’ll pull out all the stops to get you right where it wants you, to make you love it. To make you close your eyes in resigned, delighted, melodramatic rapture and let it, guide it even, in to the most secret, soft and vulnerable parts of you. To make you scream and sigh, exhausted, and beg for more.

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Francis’ complaint

Francis complains that he’d come in to work early to ‘have a nice sandwich and half an hour in the sunshine’ before his shift, but then the narrowness and high walls of the lane thwarted the last part of his plan. Looking freshly-scrubbed in his white shirt and company tie, topped off with a head of childishly unruly, big brown curls, he chatters happily, helps me carry some goods across, confesses that the last thing he remembers from Friday night is P wrestling him to the ground. ‘Everyone keeps mentioning chips!’ I don’t get a chance to ask what he means by this lament, because he’s on to the next thing, unstoppable as water; he reminds me of my siblings.

The next time I see him he’s liberated a piece of shabby carpet from some overlooked corner of the labyrinthine back shop or warehouse, and is proudly perched on it, atop the businesslike old rubbish bin. It’s maybe a metre tall, and there at its summit he’s got the full power of the slice of hazy spring sunshine that does manage to fall in the lane. He is reading The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and drinking a mug of tea with a generalised, omnibenevolent air of triumph. He is eighteen years old and he’s leaving next month to go travelling. He once pointed out that I become emotionally attached to people very easily. He may be right. I will miss him.