I need to take the weight off my feet for a little while my friend, all this running around to prepare for the journey ahead tires me out these days, not so much physically but more mentally. A brew and a bite to eat? that is indeed a splendid idea, please join me for awhile whilst I collect my thoughts…
Where am I traveling too? ah that be the Grey city, London. In my youth the thought of visiting these isles’ capital filled me with both dread and excitement. Perhaps because the center of the Empire should indeed inspire but at the same time cower a soul who comes from a small village in the north of the country. After all is it not the place where decisions that shape the world are made, where rulers both past and present reside, where the hub of world commerce is and where the streets are paved with gold? A melting pot of cultures where people come from the four corners of the world to settle and intertwine their lives in a vivid, pulsating culture that is warm, welcoming exciting, vibrant and a wonderful celebration of life that provides a mosaic of colors, tastes, feelings and odors that heighten and arouse one’s senses to living life to the absolute full?
Well perhaps my senses have been dulled over the years and my skepticism has grown in a life that has had too many experiences that make myself doubt many of my views and values that once were solid black and white pillars of certainty? I find London a grey place that no longer fills me with neither dread nor excitement but rather apathy and a desire to leave that miserable place the moment I arrive. It reeks of corruption and the mental stench of so many lost souls crammed together in the confines of the urban jungle that is the vast majority of the Grey city causes me to recoil and long for the green hills of my homeland. As for a melting pot of cultures? yes there are many of the earth’s peoples to be found in the Grey city but to my mind there is little integration occurring with single race communities living out their lives in areas that may as well have tall walls capped with razor wire for all the interacting with other communities that happens. A warm welcome? I fear not, though I am sure that the Grey city has marvels to behold and places where one’s senses can be set on fire but walking the streets of the Grey city I find the people downcast, rude, absorbed totally within their own ‘life bubble’ and with eyes downcast as if one and all fear the contact that eyes meeting would incur. I fine this the saddest part of dour experience that is a visit to the Grey city, after all for eons past this nation has been built from so many different cultures, yes most of them invaders but all have melded together adding to our heritage and produced a people that are proud, resourceful, resilient, and capable of the most amazing acts of compassion, inventiveness and bravery. But these days my frequent visits to the Grey city only lead me to doubt that as a people we are evolving along the right pathways anymore. There is such a feeling of oppression that covers those people who reside and live such narrow lives in the Grey city and other such urban jungles that one can almost taste the despair that is surrounding them.
My beloved worries about me when we venture to the city of her birth, she says that I stand out like a sore thumb among the downward looking throngs. This is not because of any height advantage, difficult when I am only 5′ 6″ I’m sure but rather because the primitive in me refuses to watch my feet as I walk and refuses to give way to people who think that they should take precedence over others. The primitive in me still gives me pride in being a man and as such I hold my head high, protect those I hold dear and I’ll be damned if the thought or act of making eye contact with another human will ever fill me with fear. My beloved likens me to a lion, a small one albeit, on the Grey city’s streets as there always seems to be a space around me which the downward looking seem to avoid. And yes I take pride in her words, it is not my physicality that people avoid but rather, I like to believe, that it is the primitive in me that people sub-consciously sense and respect. She worries that my pride will lead to a fall when in the Grey city, maybe it will but the primitive in me doubts it somewhat.
Why do I venture so far south to a place that I dislike? well my friend I can assure you that it is not for pleasure but out of duty that I travel to the city Grey. Perhaps one day I may do the tourist thing and visit the sights of London and maybe, just maybe its colour may change in my eyes, but I doubt that it will be nothing more than the Grey city to me. Ah well my friend I must carry on in my preparations for the road to the Grey city is long and wearisome and fraught with the occasional danger. It will be nice to settle in our chosen inn and dine on suckling boar washed down with the odd vessel of grog this evening at journeys end.
2 thoughts on “The Grey City…”
My dear friend, I am so sorry that this is your experience of London. As someone who has lived here all my life, I know that there is colour, and joy, and camaraderie, and beauty here, and no small number of natural wonders too. But I do not deny its dark side, its hedonism, its selfishness and its love of money. It is all things, I suppose, and a moment of sheer horror can be followed by an incident of loving compassion. In London, I have had to search for a long time to find my tribe, and yet I found that it was close at hand all along, I only had to stop and look properly. I wish you good luck in your trip, and I hope that you return safely to the place you love.
I suppose for an ‘outsider’ the city can easily appear as it does to one such as myself whom hails from a culturally less vibrant area but where generally people appear more friendly and accepting.
I visited Auckland in New Zealand at the beginning of the year and the difference in the feel of this city was palatable with people of different races not batting an eyelid at others, where smiles were common and where people still had good manners.
I suppose my view of London is perhaps slightly stereotypical of someone from further north but several ‘visits’ to the Grey city have only reinforced my views and the visit to Auckland even more so.
I just wish that there were more in the Grey city like your good self then perhaps it would at least be the Green city.
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