Sunday, 1 December 2013

City of Dreams

The fast evening train to Liverpool Street cut through the darkening countryside, the hinterland, the outer suburbs and the inner city; high rise flats, little boxes stacked one on top of the other, each little box containing someone's life, their hopes and dreams, their fears and failures, every individual with their own path to follow, their own agenda and challenges to face.  Lights shining out into the darkness.

Then suddenly it reared up, towering above the cheap, high rise blocks of flats.  A wall of glass and steel, chrome and concrete, sharply defined corners and hard edges, bright lights, tempting, challenging. The City of London, the ancient Square Mile, city of dreams and towers, a city that can make or break you, destroy you and spit you out, or endow you with riches beyond your wildest dreams.  Enter at your peril for it will surely change your life for ever!


I came to the City over 40 years ago, a young girl fresh from the provinces, weaving her dreams, with an exciting new job in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral and an entire life stretching before her.  A crisp, white page waiting for a story to be written on it.  It's a rather tattered page now, with lots of crossings out, re-writing and notes in the margin but there's still space for more as I work my way through my story.  I worked in the City for 10 years, met the man who became my husband, had children and moved out to the country, living the dream, and it has been a constant thread running through my life ever since, although the marriage has long gone.  But life turns full circle and so last night I found myself yet again in the City of London, dressed up for a formal dinner with my partner at his club, sitting chatting with new friends and watching the dark waters of the Thames flowing swiftly past the windows on its relentless journey to the sea.


I rarely come into London now and it is an expensive treat but there is a sense that, after all that has happened and all the changes in my life, all I have gone through since I first came to this place, I am at peace with this great City.  In the end it is a mirror.  It can only do to you what your own spirit allows it to do.

33 comments:

  1. I love your story. I had "city dreams" as a young woman, but kept to the countryside through all of the twists and turns of life. London is one of those dream cities, even over here, across the wide Atlantic. Thank you for sharing this little glimpse of your life.

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    1. Thank you Aisling - what a lovely comment. I think life twists and turns wherever you lead it, but I'm glad I had my London years. It is indeed a dream city!

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  2. Lovely blog. Thank you for sharing

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    1. You are kind Molly. It's a series of snapshots, but I'm glad you enjoy them too.

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  3. "crossing out, re-writing and notes in the margin" - well said. Life doesn't work out the way the "first draft' was planned, but it can have some very happy surprises along the way, even when it seems the clouds will never lift. Glad you had fun in London -such a rich city.

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    1. I do agree Jenny - life is always a work in progress. London is a tough city but very rewarding if you can find a support network.

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  4. London, my home town. It’s the place where I lived for longer than anywhere else, even longer than in my my real home town, across the Channel. I lived and worked, suffered and enjoyed London life.

    I still miss it. But it’s not a city for old people.

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    1. No, it isn't - the pace is so fast. Four of our children live there at the moment, so we get frequent visits, but I'm always glad to get back to the peace and quiet of the Suffolk countryside!

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  5. I know you don't post often, but when you do what you have to say is a privilege to read.
    I'm glad that the recent evening in the city was an enjoyable and positive experience.

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    1. What a kind thing to say Linda! I only blog when something stirs in the undergrowth as it were... It's always good to visit London, and always good to leave.

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  6. What an evocative -- and enticing! -- post. I'm keen for another visit to London, although I'll probably have to wait another year. What an exciting city, although I agree that it's tough to find breathing space there. Lucky you to have spent so much of your life there and to have it close enough that you can get a quick hit if you crave it.

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    1. Four of our children live in London mf, so we make regular trips to visit them although there is rarely time to do more than dip a toe in the water. I have a love/hate relationship with London - it is a tough city to live in if you don't have a support network. Hope you get chance to visit again soon.

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  7. I love the way you wrote this. It gives me such a feeling of familiarity though I've never been to Europe. Very evocative.

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    1. I love it when the words flow, Hilary and just wish they would do so more often... I hope you get chance to visit Europe one of these days. It has so much to offer.

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  8. Thank you, Marianne, for your visit and comment over at my place.

    In late October I had my own evening train arrival at Liverpool St Station and recognized in my own memory all that you describe.

    It may seem odd for me to say that I find the pace of London a bit relaxing, compared to my own adopted city New York. Perhaps that is because I visit London as a holiday and am able to create my own sense of pace. I love both cities very much. The British countryside is sublime.

    Cheers!

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    1. I really enjoy my visits to New York, via your blog Frances and hope to return one day. I think you are right though that the pace there exceeds even that of London. I love to dip into big cities, but enjoy the peace and quiet of the Suffolk countryside as a contrast.

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  9. This is wonderful, Marianne. I especially like the thought of little boxy flats full of other people's losses and desires. And I love the thought that London is a mirror - it makes me wish I'd experienced more of it! I've only ever stayed there for a couple days at a time, and it couldn't be more different from where I am now!

    Hope you're well! Thanks for the lovely comments! xo

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    1. So glad you like it Megan, though you do take it to the next level, you know! Maybe one day you will come to London and live there for a while, who knows? I think the mirror analogy could apply to many things in life - ultimately we all see our own reflection... So pleased to have another blogger/writer in the family xx

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  10. Your London could easily be any major, exciting city of the world, New York, L.A., Paris, and my very own, Toronto. And, because of this relation, so many of us can identify with your feelings, your experiences, and the path that you are on now. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, "It’s never too late (...) to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same; there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.".

    Thank you for sharing a most intriguing read.

    Poppy

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    1. Very true, Poppy, although I was particularly struck by the contrast between the extreme poverty of the East end of London cheek by jowl with the financial capital of the world which is the City, and it was that contrast which started this train of thought as well as the impact this place has had on my own life. I have had an interesting and sometimes painful journey but I'm happy with where I am now. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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  11. I love London and lived and worked there for quite a while at various stages of my life. It still feels familiar territory and yet oddly alien now. The noise and speed and people always take a bit of time to adjust to. I do love the river still and Waterloo Bridge in particular. Could never live there again, both for emotional and financial reasons! It was another life.

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  12. It is a fabulous city and I am so glad I lived there, but like you Elizabeth I feel it was another time, another life. Love to visit though!

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  13. nice...i love the city...never been to london...but i feel much the same about NYC...so many new things to explore everytime i go....

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  14. oh and congrats on the potw over at hilary's

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  15. Always nice to revisit a part of our lives, again

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  16. Congratulations on the POTW listing. A nice reflection on life.

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  17. Congratulations on your romantic POTW!

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  18. Hi Marianne, your description of London mirrors my owl feelings. My story is a little different though and involves a flat owned for years by my British father. While we always had a permanent base in Canada, I lives off and on in E for years. Now half in Vancouver and half in a funny little cottage in OXON; where I am just now. London is now a treat as well, and strangely foreign too. Like I'm a visitor who needs to go back home. :)

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  19. I'm here from Hilary's Posts of the Week. This was a lovely piece. Loved the last two lines especially. Certain cities seem to have a romantic allure. Though I've often wondered if that fades once you've been there awhile.

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  20. What an intriguing post. In a moment you had me there. I've only ever visited London once and that was at this time of year 31 years ago. I am always making plans for a return visit - and it would be in spring or fall. I'm la that your return visit was such a pleasant one.

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    1. I hope you do make another visit soon, Pondside. You will find much has changed and much has stayed the same. Spring and Autumn are definitely the best times to visit.

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  21. I enjoyed your post so much and it brought back memories and also a bit of nostalgia. I went to London the first time in 1953 when I was 13 – I went with a small group of French school kids, each one of us them went to a local family. Then I went back every Christmas from Paris until I left for the US (after spending a year in England in college.) After that, as often as I could find a flight I would stop in London for a day or two on my way to see my mum in Paris. I love London, really. It has changed but it still has this special atmosphere. I miss it. Thanks for reminding me of this beautiful city.

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  22. Lovely post, Marianne! It's interesting to return to a place you once lived in, and now you're like a different person; you certainly have a different life than you had back then.
    I love London, but only for short bursts of time, it requires lots of energy but has so much to offer.
    Hope you had a good Christmas!

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