I thought that walking down the Thames path I would send away the desire to catch the infinite blue of the sea combined with the kind breeze of a summer day. Unfortunately, the grey colour of the river did not help me too much. Here and there, occasionally some seagulls were playing with the wild waves just above the water, as if they don’t have enough courage to get involved in this battle properly. A naughty seagull is disturbing my contemplation with a desperate song which is in perfect harmony with the fury of the river. Trying to keep the pace with the stream, another bird joins her. I am sure they both missed their music classes during high school. What can I expect? I am in the middle of a blast world and I am complaining that some poor white birds, who are just doing their job, are disturbing me. After all, I think I am the problem here.
The small sad boats are floating lazy on the surface of the river. As if they can feel in the air the smell of another foggy Monday. Others, the old and colourful ones, they are just waiting tired on the side. Perhaps some of them had been forgotten a long time ago, no use nowadays. Now, they are serving as haven for decorative plants, hoping to get some attention from casual tourists who are still having an eye for simplicity and sublime. Despite this aspect, they are a real proof of the old, past times, which serve as a reminder of a long and great 2000 years history of London jostling amongst the modern day “citadels” of finance, banking and law within the square mile. In the middle of this hectic chaos, the river is nothing more and nothing less than just an element meant to provide rest for people and habitat for various species.
My body starts to feel the cold of an ending summer day. The dead leaves are on the avenue, releasing into the air the smell of the elapsing days. The serenity of the surrounding does not fit well with the brown tiny houses alongside the pathway, they stick out like a sore thumb. A mischievous squirrel is finding its own way to nowhere. One minute later I find myself analysing old stones and colourful pieces of glass along the river bank, following the squirrel. Holding an assortment of old glasses and stones makes me feel like staring at history, well preserved by Thames, the sole surviving witness of the olden days. I feel very tired, as if every single muscle inside me is fighting against my body. The weather is not helping me either. I sat down on the small pebble beach, admiring the city and the river, creating my own world where the main characters are the buildings in front of my eyes.
It is simply amazing how the story of time is told very often by architecture. It can be noticed very clearly that glass makes the rules in terms of extravagant and uncommon constructions. A cocktail of past, present and future is all I can see at the moment. The humble medieval houses are almost vanished amongst the transparent mountain of mirrors. I blink. I blink. I blink and here I am, blinking again. The smell of smoked weed tells me that I am not completely alone in my imaginary universe. I ignore the olfactory senses for the time being. It’s London, the place on earth where the scent of weed is as common as the perfume of roses in Queen Mary’s garden. Nothing to worry about.
I imagine myself at a station, standing on the platform, taking the train to my visionary world. The train is approaching, I step in, the doors are closing, and I am back.
Servants wearing amber aprons are part of the past. Most of the time they are very quiet, shy and resigned. With memories in their pockets, they accepted the idea that their time of glory is gone.
How can you not feel like a royal celebrity when the sun gives you the most incredible glow of all time? Yes, we are talking about the present now. The transparent cliff in front of me was once just a bunch of stones. How many tourists come to London to see the pebbles on the bank of the Thames? How many tourists visit this city to see the new architecture and all these colossal buildings? The only difference between the two elements is just a process of transformation. Just a process. You cannot be a piece of luminous glass if you were not a stone first.
Mirrors everywhere and the myth of Narcissus experienced a reborn. The modern buildings reflect not only the sun, but their own personalities. Selfish, arrogant, proud, lost in a polished dimension, they are all a macro image of the son of the River God. When the daylight touches the top point of each building you can barely see anything, except an accumulation of bright. The tall construction cannot be ignored. Can of Ham, Cheesegrater, Gherkin, Stealth Bomber and Walkie-Talkie. They have the entire attention of the tourists. Luckily, there are travellers too, not only tourists, so the servants can be silently admired as well. As we can see so far, the present is very illuminated. Maybe that’s not a coincidence, and maybe we should live and enjoy it more.
If in real life skeletons are the figure of a past, in my new world they represent the future. The cranes are decorating the whole landscape, as if someone dropped everything randomly from a plane. I cannot say that the high construction machines perfectly fit in the context but are part of something that does not exist yet. It might seem very annoying and disturbing for a contemplator, but the bunch of bones are placed there with a certain purpose, being part of the metamorphosis. Here is the genesis room where my characters are about to breathe for the first time. Each skeleton is filled with muscle by well-trained architects, constructors and labours. A new sphere gets contour. It takes time, a lot of time, years and decades until the splendid imperfection wallows in the colourful society.
Hushed and full of rainy days, the counsel of the last century, Tower Bridge, continues to breathe. His gasp brushes the surface of the Thames creating restless waves. Thus, the river is resurrected, back to life, and we have a sentinel between the north and the south. No matter how much glass surrounds him, his beauty and value will never be a shadow. Two towers, two eyes meant to observe each and every single detail of the society. From the most important person to the most insignificant stone by the river, he is never too tired to contemplate the variety of the picture. The iron ornaments give him a royal dignity, and the small crosses over his head makes me understand that he knows better than anyone what the definition of war is. Always with open arms, willing to restore the peace between the old and the new, he is the major link between the two worlds.
No, this is not possible. It must be a mistake, an error in the system. Something went very wrong and I am not sure if the counsel can do something to fix the issue. My heart beats faster and faster, I feel sad, sorrowful and powerless. I close my eyes and all I can do is touch every single piece of glass with my inner eyes, hoping that my attention will hearten a little bit of his loneliness. There, deep inside, somewhere in the middle of yesterday a ranger rises, always ready to fight the battles inside him and to win the final war. Albert Camus tried to tell us something about the darkest fear of the century, but you never understand alienation properly until you feel its teeth tearing your body.
‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’ Is it so? I’d say that what does not kill you makes you wish you were dead. Too dark? Too depressive? How can it be otherwise when the glorious Shard is there alone by himself, being the strongest symbol of solitude. I ask myself thousands of questions. I want to know why. The bridge tells him old stories sometimes before sleep, and his desolation backs off.
The Shard might be all alone, born on the left side of the right-handed world, but he is the witness of the most interesting and dazzling stories that the city is seeing now. And if you ask me which is my favourite modern building of London, you can find the answer at the beginning of this paragraph, because the solitude paints his glass in the most original way.
In the end, I don’t think it was a mistake. The great architects cannot be wrong. Every single character of my story belongs exactly where they were placed. Everything is there for a reason. To give us a lesson, or simply to provide us with enough imagination so that we can escape from the prison called reality.
Servants, autocratic masters, merger creatures, a counsel and a ranger. That’s the world of my story. A world that might not make too much sense, but honestly, look around. What makes sense in this enormous chaos?
A small drop of water clutches my cheek. I am confused. I cannot figure out if the Shard is crying or the small pearl is my own tear. Maybe, maybe the river was born out of tears. Sour, bitter tears which are the best remembrance that my characters are definitely alive.
It’s not a tear that merges with my skin, just a cheerful rain drop playing around. The first step, second one, a few more stairs to climb and I am back to reality. I am still stuck in vain, half of me walking, the other half gives the ranger a warm hug. I find myself waiting on the platform, metropolitan line from Baker street. It’s peak hour and heaven knows how much I hate this aspect of the city. I have no choice. I don’t understand why, but for some reason I looked down to the black and dirty rails. As a part of the landscape, pretty hard to be noticed, three or four mice are running without any purpose on the sharp rocks between the lines. I feel disgusted and I try to look around. The image does not want to leave my brain. I try to think of something beautiful, useless.
The train approaches, the doors open and sadly enough I realise that there is not much difference between what I saw earlier and what I see now. I wish I was wrong. It can’t be true. I hope it’s not true. No, it’s not true. We are more than that.
Camelia Birza is an ambitious, budding writer with a great aptitude for absorbing the beauty of this world through her Romanian eyes. She likes to write creative fiction and non-fiction.