A Room With A View

Writing 101, day 2.

Photo from the Avalon School

Photo from the Avalon School

The sky is wide and open, but the city is a barricade on every side. Stone flags, worn in places by centuries of feet, spread across the space under the watchful eyes of the lions. Nelson stands guard above it all, and the pigeons keep an eye on the crowds, watchful for a dropped chip or abandoned sandwich, or some kind, misguided tourist. Neon billboards place us in the modern day, the architecture pushes us back. We always find a way to stamp our presence.

I spent some time in therapy. One of the things I learned is that having Trafalgar Square as your relaxing mental place is unusual.

Humanity chatters. There’s children screaming, a tour guide cutting across the babble in rapid-fire Foreign, teenagers shrieking with laughter, a strident businessman proclaiming his importance on the phone as he shoulders through the crowd. Horns blare, there’s a siren, and the stolid rumble of yet another double-decker bus as it creeps past.

And there’s nature, too. The fountain chatters and plinks, and the flutter of wings rises into the sky. Not angels but pigeons, sated and returning to their noble perch.

They suggest rural vistas. Waterfalls and lakes, rivers, beaches, fields, forests. The quiet broken only by the burble and rush of water.

You could go anywhere. Over there is Oxford Street, down there to the river, up there is Soho. The world is here. Centuries-old paintings in the stillness and quiet of the gallery, or the perfect handbag among the tourists in Harrods. You could eat Chinese from a dish, or take afternoon tea like you’re in High Society. Roads twist and twine away, ready to lead you to 1900 or Small Town America. The ground thrums with all those feet, thrums through you.

My safe place is not so remote. Or, well, it is. I am a country girl, with isolation a short walk away, and the big city is my retreat. It’s a four hour bus ride away, a hideously early morning, but reachable, just.

And the whole world is here. Here, you can be anyone. The tour groups, the school kids, the harried mothers with buggies and cigarettes, none of them care who you are. A glance, and then they’re on. Anonymity. Here you are a cog in the crowd. It’s pointillism, and you’re a dot surrounded by so many others. Every colour, a rainbow of people, all your own image.

I don’t want to be alone.

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