'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London & Cumbria

When I first moved to London I soon found the city was colonising my dreams. Each night I travelled around a city that was recognisably London, but a London warped by the mass of its own historical subconscious: buildings, streets and landmarks were rearranged, but rearranged consistently, so that my dream-London took on a logic and sense of place all its own. Curiously, I spent much time in the dream-London's Underground where stations, platforms, trains and lines all ran in a consistently different manner to those of waking life. Becoming a Londoner was a 24-hour task, something that my sub-conscious worked hard at while my mind recovered from the assault of everyday experience in the city. Frequently, I would be woken by the sound of the IRA blowing up the railway lines across from the back of my flat.

By malign coincidence, Thursday's bombings took place at locations which have intensely felt and experienced associations for me. I remember travelling from a friend's flat at Edgware Road on a gorgeous spring day to a first date with a Brixton girl at the start of a relationship that was intensely thrilling & catastrophically destructive. Outside Russell Square I shook the hand of a dear friend, a Truffaut-buff and amateur film-maker, with whom I later passionately fell out. At Liverpool Street, by Broadgate Circus, I spent a Sunday making a short film with a group of friends whose talents commitment and enthusiasm over-burnished my own inarticulate script and stuttering directions. I walked through Tavistock Sqaure one evening, arm in arm with a lover.
Cities accumulate memories and experiences and knit them into their fabric, just as they transmit to us the unmanageable richness of their historical realities.
Today, those places of love, creativity, friendship and serenity have been overlaid with the experience of violence, the horror of death in narrow places, isolated and alone, without loved ones or familiar faces.
When I moved back to Cumbria, I found that my dreams were colonised by the landscape too: Derwentwater, Scafell and Whiteless Pike rearranged themselves into an unexpected geography of the mind. This afternoon I looked up to the hills and felt their bulk, their immovableness, their solidity. They were, truly, less reassuring than I would have wished. But I was left with the feeling that however warped by the weight of suffering, our surroundings carry the gifts of what we love best with them, a shared identity, a commonality of feeling, experience and understanding that cannot be destroyed.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Trev said...

Thought about sending that to the newspapers?

I suspect a few of them might have features about this and a lot like to get a personal angle on things and not just the "I was there" type stories.

If nothing else it proves that whatever the terrorists may do, there are certain things they can never take away from an area...

Trev

11/7/05 1:38 pm  
Blogger Irene Adler said...

It sounds like there was altogether too much passion for you in London, good job you left for somewhere more calming.

11/7/05 4:27 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Trev - thanks for the kind words, but I suspect tis kind of thing best left to blogsd not the MSM.
Irene - not too much, but too well, I suspect . . .

13/7/05 8:30 pm  
Blogger RenMan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

14/7/05 10:55 am  
Blogger RenMan said...

Nick .. it's a really nice piece. The Cumbrian landscape is in my head always .. that relief map on the wall of the Keswick Museum mostly. London and most cities and towns where the hills are not visible - I forget. For the last 5 years or so, on my monthly visits to London I've been unable to go underground .. the fear of being enclosed in a hill-less rat run. I exercised my option and walked/taxied. I can't imagine the hell of being blown to bits down there.

14/7/05 10:57 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Renman - thanks for the good words: I almost didn't post it at all.

16/7/05 7:15 pm  

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