I love these ‘then and now’ montages, showing the ghosts of East End London.
The footsteps we step in; the breath that we breathe.
Taken in the early 1880’s, this is one of the earliest images of the East End of London.
I love the way the children appear insubstantial and ghost-like, which in effect they are. Lingering echoes of lives long lost, wandering along now vanished streets.
Ariana Grande has returned to Manchester for the first time since the concert in which twenty two people lost their lives. After visiting the injured children in hospital she is now appearing in a hastily arranged concert featuring herself and many guest stars. People who attended that first, ill-fated concert have been allowed to attend this one for free.
The entire concert is being screened live on television. It appears everyone on my FB friends list are either attending in person or watching from their own homes. Very emotional, the message One Love Manchester is also transcending my city’s borders, being sent down south to those who suffered just last night in London.
Music brings people together. And, as Ariana has just said, the kind of love being displayed here is the medicine that the world needs right now. I hope it is addictive.
How often the imagination compensates for the limited world view of the young.
Town borders; forest edges; the last stop before the motorway slip road. These are the limits of their everyday world.
But then they are elevated high, and their vision expands, the world opens up and they feel themselves diminishing.
Look there, on the horizon: it’s the future; it’s the unknown.
Thames they sail the Thames a convoy of geese gliding in from the sea borders breached in the capital skein of feather and doubtful origin maybe Scandinavian avian a European paean to open waters ©Andrew James Murray
You can’t help but walk around craning your neck as you look high. It’s the unusual juxtaposition of these monoliths of light framed against the night sky. They draw your vision skyward, dwarfed by our own creations.
With a view to remembering, I had set off on my final night’s walk, crossing the bridge behind my hotel, at dusk.
I took the same route as last time, but this day being a Sunday meant the atmosphere was more subdued, the army of office workers gone, leaving behind a vacuum for nature and a wandering Manc to fill.
I had this familiar, definite trail in mind, but, as often happens, it was birds that led me astray.
As darkness fell, I heard gulls somewhere overhead. Studying the night sky, I could make out their aerial skirmishes beneath the towering cranes.
I began to walk towards the direction the birds had flown in, now aware that I could hear the carcophonous shrieking of many others somewhere up ahead. And so they led me from my safe and ordered plan.
They took me to a point called Limehouse Lock, a part of Canary Wharf I hadn’t been to before. I stood there, against iron railings, peering out to locate the gliding forms.
There were hundreds of gulls-skimming above the dark waters of the Thames. Some low, just above the surface, some higher, all moving as one great flock.
Don’t gulls sleep at night, even in a city that doesn’t sleep?
At night it is always dark water. I could remember looking out over the Saltsjön one evening in Stockholm, regarding the depths there as black water. Expansive and ominous, deep and threatening, I thought of Lindqvist’s book Harbour. In that novel, the writer made an evil entity out of the whole body of water, no doubt influenced by the death of his own father who was lost at sea.
I could imagine it, this great mass, untameable and omnipresent, claiming all who are foolish enough to try to master it.
I stayed for a while. Away from the bright lights of the city, here was the greater thrill: being led to somewhere different, somewhere new, by these feathered guides. Watching them move uninhibited en masse over the masking shadows of the Thames.
I saw Yoda today in Trafalger Square. He looked taller than the last time I saw him-he must have been eating his greens.
Okay, so you thought you’d seen the last of me for a few days.
But, for the first time, I took my iPad away with me as my antique phone is playing up. So I decided to use it for a few photographs and the odd update. Just in case I should disappear off the map.
Canary Wharf: feeling small. A poor man’s Stonehenge. How far have we come from the Neolithic?
In the midst of city life, there were some coots nesting in the water to the side of me, the calling chicks catching the attention of some cooing, slightly tipsy women. Alas, it was too dark for me to capture them. The chicks, I mean. The women continued to dance beneath neon lights.
Above the monoliths. Looking down; looking up.
In the distance: the Shard. I resisted its call.
The DLR crosses the bridge. Driverless trains- would you feel safe?
How many Jackdaw Andy’s can you cope with? Using my iPad that way it looks like I’m waving a hymn book about, threatening to break into song. And these unforgivable angles show just how much I’m beginning to thin on top. Damn wife; damn kids; damn time!
Did I leave anything out ? Maybe a smile?
I am off to London in the morning for three nights, arriving back on Monday evening.
For those of you who are familiar with the whole ‘journey’ theme of my book Heading North, the last time I was in our capital city I wrote three poems for possible inclusion in the book. I was going to publish two that didn’t make the final cut here in this post-but at this late hour I can’t find them!
One was still in early draft form, entitled London Lines, and the other was a completed poem that I didn’t think quite up to scratch (tellingly the title now escapes me).
So, until I do locate them, I will include here the only one of the three that made my collection. It was written in the very same hotel, in Canary Wharf, that I’m staying in this weekend. Maybe inspiration still lingers the corridors, eh? Perhaps my muse is still joyriding the elevators.
We shall see. In the meanwhile, have a great weekend people.
See you next week.
Canary Wharf, Morning Sunrise over angled skies. Reflected light on glass and steel. Still water shine and strengthening hum of time-fixated suited drones, speed induced and web infused. See the parade of passive martyrs. One day, maybe, just one day, sit and watch the world go by. ©Andrew James Murray