You annoy me sometimes, but still, I’m drawn to you like the magnetic north. Like iron filings in a school physics lesson; fragments of me arc this way and that, partly repelled, partly attracted.
That’s how I feel about you – sometimes invigorated, excited – there’s an anticipation of being with you. Other times, I am bored, frustrated, even disgusted by your unkempt streets like an unmade bed; then, I tire of you and feel like getting as far away as possible from you and your noise and smell.
But, oh, then I think of your wide lush green spaces, your interesting nooks and crannies holding so much history, filled with tiny bookshops and ephemera. I can explore you then, feel warm and safe, cared for; I can hide away from the world as you wrap me in your literary overcoat to keep out the chill.
I like too the way the sun glints on the Thames on a sunny day, ricochets off austere buildings, reflects in endless eyes. I try to see through your eyes, as if through the lens of an old camera; slightly blurry at the edges but crisp and clear as an autumn day in the centre.
There are some days of course when I am less enamoured by your charms when I’m in a rush and frustrated by your slow dawdling – leaves on the line and some sun excuse for not meeting. I know you can’t control it, but…
Other days your near-manic rush to be places, carry people, disorientates me; you move so fast I find myself turning around bewildered, looking for you, like a ballet dancer trying to find that special focal point to fix on as she pirouettes, as the audience stays still around her, breaths held in awe.
The descent of night brings on disturbing changes: you become brooding, sometimes threatening, lit up and garish like a circus has come to town. I am half in awe, a quarter frightened and a quarter in love with you at these times. A different you emerges with the denizens of the night; day workers transform on Fridays as if at a masquerade ball, changing identity temporarily, only to wake up with heavy heads and go back to their normal lives on Monday.
The arches; I’ve been meaning to have a word with you about these. I don’t like the boxes you keep there, full of crumpled cold homeless bodies, trying to get enough of your night overcoat to cover them, to keep them warm. Sometimes the inhabitants call out, sometimes they sit quietly head down, cardboard signs illegible enough to make me slow my pace a little in order to try and glimpse the story behind their lives. That’s a trick you don’t fall for of course; however, you’re soft-hearted enough to spread out your wide arms around man, woman and child of every colour and creed in this seething city.
It is under these dank cold arches that I long to escape to my own safe haven, box-like in itself but warm and with a roof, away from prying eyes, where I can wake up in the daylight. Then you seem kinder, safer, have a sense of purpose about you. Although people are still rushing through your streets on blindness missions, bumping into me rudely, it is sometimes heartening to strike up random conversations with perfect strangers. Don’t be jealous, mainly the conversation turns to you!
Who says you are unfriendly? They don’t know you as well as I do. I don’t feel I can ever get to truly know your ever-changing soul, your all-encompassing heart. Too many facets, too many nooks and crannies to explore, to get lost in.
Lucky we have many years together, to get to know each other better. I can only hope.