Apropos rejuvenating old pictures and Dickens, I couldn’t resist looking at his protagonist cities in my files. Other than being able to post some of these cityscapes for this weeks Travel Challenge, I’ve no ulterior motive in choosing monotone for one and colour for the other – it’s entirely coincidental that my old London slides were badly degraded while a couple of slides and old prints from Paris are full of light – truly.
Sure, I do have to admit that my year in London doesn’t stand out among my most treasured memories, but it’s an unequal world when the experiences of everyday life are asked to live up to the euphoria of travel, and holiday times, and adventure. I arrived in the drab of Autumn, broke, cold and alone, needing a job and work-appropriate clothing urgently. Austria’s flaming Autumn and glistening snow was no preparation for an English winter in the city – I thought I’d wither from the lack of colour, and oxygen – how would we breath with no trees or grass! I’m sure it wasn’t the coldest of winters, though it seemed inordinately wet, perhaps because economic circumstances were forcing me, like many others, out onto the pavements, getting to and from work by shanks pony. This was the time of the so-called Miners Strikes, of the Oil Crisis, and the Three Day Week – and of a persistently deflated Pound, which made saving for my escape that much more difficult!
But as with most things, deprivation brought its own excitement, and indelible memories that furnish my recollection of a special time of my life. How I wish, though, that I had had a camera when Spring arrived. For forty years I’ve consciously tried to keep intact memories of those first crocus, pushing up through the grass in Kensington Gardens – for all the world as though they’d been processed with selective colour filters; that faint limey wash that the hand of warmer nights threw across every branch and twig, transforming grey, brown, drab into a world of light and optimism; of bluebell dells where the flower heads were so thickly congregated it was impossible to see the ground beneath (or where I had gathered them, by the armful!); the delight I experienced, watching the branch of pussy willow I had on my shelf, as each day it manifest its macro of the city’s metamorphosis.