life ever allowed you to look your own past, your own youth in the
face? Everything is always beginning again, your youth is someone
else’s youth, your future is your own.
most perfect days are the most unpredictably delightful ones, the
days that move off in a new and magical direction you could never
have expected when they dawned.
Friday 2016 (which at the time of writing was only yesterday, Friday
25 March 2016) was just such a day for me. A
day of reaffirmation and renewal.
the past few weeks, I’ve twice felt as if I was brought face-to-face
with a specific and pivotal point in my growing up.
I visited a company in Bishopsgate as part of my current job of work.
When I first moved to London all those very many years ago*, things
changed dramatically for me over a weekend. I went from finishing my
job in a most verdant location in Milton Keynes, through moving into
a flatshare in Tooting Broadway on the Saturday and starting work at
a City of London consultancy based
in St Helen’s Place on
Bishopsgate on the Monday (regard
the photo of St.
Place below – by some mark the most spectacular place I’ve ever
contrast. Culture shock. Accelerated change. World turned upside
Dark and long
walk up Bishopsgate from London Bridge station the other week vividly
brought back the exact feelings of uncertainty and nervousness I’d
felt walking that same route up that same street all those years ago
(Underworld’s Dark and Long also always makes me think of the romance
of London in that period). I
was proud of twenty-something me for persisting
through the self-doubt, the stress, the feeling of not being up to
come to realise you are up to it. It
my other half and I celebrated
anniversary of our very first date with a day’s fun and enjoyment
wandering central London, revisiting places that’d meant a lot to us
in our earliest days together and visiting places new for the first
time. We’d resolved to buy
some treats for the house that would match both our tastes. We ended
up with the following delightful (to us) purchases. A doormat in what
I am assured is the olde livery of the Victoria Line tube train
upholstery, from the London Transport Museum shop:
these three prints from Gosh Comics in Berwick Street, Soho:
reader, if you have spent any extended period of time in London, you
will perhaps have twigged
that for the great majority of Londoners, it’s not really the done
thing to go striking up friendly conversation with your fellow
traveler on public transport. Heading home, the transport system
had once again chosen to complicate people’s holidays massively, this
by closing London Victoria. Our
train home out of London Bridge was rammed full of uncomprehending,
be-suitcased people forced to essay a contrived, extended and
moderately infuriating alternative route to Gatwick Airport. Just one
such displaced traveller randomly chose to sit down opposite us, and
brightly (if not very Londonerly) started chatting to us.
interlocutor was a twenty-something girl named Joy from a tiny rural
town in Northern Ireland, who was headed
Gatwick to catch a flight for Belfast, to join her family for Easter.
What she said next brought me once
with my own youth.
told us about the displacement, culture shock and exhilaration she’d
felt, moving to London from a very quiet part of “Norn Iron”**
When I asked her where she worked, I was amazed
to hear that it was located on Bishopsgate, not a stone’s throw from
my old St Helen’s Place place
She was at the exact same stage on
the same path as
me all those years ago, somewhat nervous and overawed, stunned at the
mockingly high cost of living in a London flatshare, but also loving
the change, the excitement, the opportunity. I felt so old (but
also so thankful I’d made it this far)
saying to her: “It gets easier.”
the third time in the life of this blog, I can think of no more apt
words than those of Clive James on London’s endless ability to
refresh and to
reinvent itself to work “its eternal trick of showing the next
generation that the possibilities are infinite, and everything has
Going away on a strange day
is always beginning again, the path you took is being trod by others,
your own path always stretches ahead to a better future.
The top two images in this post are not my work or my intellectual property, and I will immediately remove each if required.
- The first is a detail from the beautiful print, The End of Summer by Tillie Walden, which we purchased from Gosh! Comics yesterday (and which is also depicted in my photo of the trio of prints later in this post).
- The St Helen’s Place pic is from this site.
wasn’t even the same century, and people were genuinely getting
worked up about something called the Millennium bug at the time –
if you’re young enough not even to have heard these words, suffice it
to say that the fact you’ve not heard of it indicates what a
non-event it was. Another
indicator of how long ago we are talking: One workday morning, as I
emerged from Bank tube station, I was lucky enough to be just one
person behind someone who was randomly grabbed by the dismal Davina
McCall (replete with camera crew) for the dismal opportunity to
appear on her dismal TV show StreetMate (6.3/10
on imdb? I think not!).
Sometimes the random happenstance of time smiles kindly down upon us.
Northern Irish readers, I sincerely hope it is OK for me to use the
words “Norn Iron” when reporting the speech of a Northern Irish
person. But please let me know if you think not, and I will change
are the first
times I quoted these words.