BoJo, BREXIT, Cab Drivers, Chinatown, Churchill, Corinthian Columns, Earlham Street, European Union, Firestorms, London, Long Acre, Mercer Street, Old Compton Street, Optimism, Royal Opere House, Seven Dials, SOHO, the London Blitz, Treaty, Treaty of Paris, Treaty of Rome, WW1, WW2
The sun strikes the Corinthian uprights of Barry’s Royal Opera House building.
And unless the world spins on its axis, gets jolted by a passing asteroid or we find we are inadvertently sitting on the fault line between two tectonic plates, nothing will change in the nature of how the sunlight falls across these columns from when morning breaks across them to when nightfall takes them back again. [Other than when London’s cloudy temperament muddies the moment.]
To feast on London, to receive her positive charge, is to look up, especially on a crisp blue-sky day like today as the sun fires up the masonry above and around me.
And at no time in recent history do I think we need a little upward-looking optimism.
The art in this though is to prime this upward-looking optimism in ourselves without waiting for anyone else to delver it to our door – especially anyone from our political classes. And there’s plenty to distract ourselves wit is we choose.
To walk [especially in the quieter hours of the morning] past the fascia of the Opera House, to then turn left down Long Acre, cutting through Mercer street to Seven Dials – and then along Earlham Street to Cambridge Circus and to the Palace Theatre in front of you, is to find your eyes constantly being drawn upwards.
Porticos, balustrades, fascia decorations and old advertisements painted on the walls above the line of shop fronts.
To cut through to Old Compton street as the collision of scents and aromas rolls up to meet you – of restaurants prepping garlicky delights, bars scrubbing off ale-soaked floors, the warm wrap of air from the Chinese bun bakers, and the beep beep beep of Vans reversing into lay-bys with crates boxes and bags of ingredients and supplies – all mixed with the sharp acrid bright citrus of industrial bleaches and disinfectants slopped into doorways and across the restaurant and bar thresholds. To swim in this soup and yet to look up and watch the light as it crosses buildings [much as it has done so for some hundreds of years] is truly a beautiful thing.
To find a complex yet staggering simple beauty in London, one need only swim in her streets while looking up at how the sun light falls on her building tops.
To immerse yourself in this continuum can smooth even the bumpiest times and the greatest turbulences out of your mind – like a de-wrinkler for the soul.
As I walk through the streets I hear people barking BREXIT platitudes for and against. People crouch crowd and squat over their screens sniggering at cruel memes, bathing in podcasts and trading ugly human politic in gif format.
And as these people teem about me, snippets of conversations are scraped. A slathering of WTF! and ‘its all gone to shit’, with a fistful of Keep Calms and a mouthful of ‘They’re all as bad as each other’s.
Off-hand paens to BoJo float towards me as devout van drivers flick a V to both cyclists, foreigners, and ‘the lot of ‘em’.
Pacifists and anarchists fight each other with words and slogans shouting off the front pages of newspapers as wi-fi-eared drones march ever forwards to the beat of their spotify drum.
London teems with the bleary eyed and the upright, the dishevelled and the dandy, puffer jacketed tourists clutch street foods as TV producers and media types clatter across paving stones vaguely chewing-gummed together. But they are all simply the colouring in. They are the water running through it, human flotsam and jetsam that either surges onwards or washes up at the edges of the streets in cafes and bars and restaurants. The true riches lie above the screen line of ordinary people.
A sharp neon hum over Bar Italia draws our eye to the blue John Logie Baird plaque above it. Twas ever thus. Almost all of London’s most famous sons and daughters are celebrated in blue and white above our general eye line. And something pushes our eyes up to meet them. There is an irrepressible something that comes up through the ground London walks on. Something that vibrates up through it. Pushing our thoughts and dreams skywards. And none more so than in Soho. If ley-lines are a thing, then I sense a cluster of them collide under SoHo’s streets.
Theres an over-powering sense of timelessness here. The past and future are one – tied together by the Now. Today is simply a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. And on we go.
And, in much the same way, so do many of these buildings, enduring as they have always done – weathering the collapse of societies, the chess game of Royal In and Royal Out, decay of Empire, financial crashes and crunches, street riots and both World Wars of course, especially the one that peppered London with every nature and type of bomb, incendiary or otherwise, and on the back of which and calls of Never Again led directly to first the Treaty of Paris in 1951 and the reconciliation of France & Germany as promoted by Winston Churchill and closely followed by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, in which European Union was made material and binding.
In much the same way these streets and buildings have weathered one European firestorm, I am certain they’ll weather this one. And in much the same way that they now simply carry the echoes of the many who lived through those times and whom are now long dead, they will carry the echoes of my footsteps and the noise of our current european furore that echo up and around these streets..
In the long run October 31st. will be a date like so many others whose import will whither and fade. But right now…