Tuesday 28 April 2015

London Wanderings #1

I find London fascinating. Except for a brief period, I've been living here since 2002. And I do love it.

I have some ideas for something that I'm going to write about London, but I need to get some thoughts down and in order before I do. I don't quite have it yet. I need to do some working out.

So, that's what this is going to be. Some thoughts, observations and flights of fancy about this city and the stories in it. Occasional posts, just seeing how my brain works when I'm thinking about the place. It's going to be a little bit stream-of-conscious, but there'll usually be something I'm struggling towards. And maybe sometimes, I'll find it.

Following a talk I went to earlier tonight, I got to wondering about the links between London and horror stories. And it led to me thinking about whether there has ever been a series of macabre stories as influential and intense about a place as there was in London at the tail end of the 19th Century? Following on from A Christmas Carol earlier in the century (which, along with Dickens' other work, painted a picture of London covered in snow at Christmas that has stayed in culture's heads since), we saw the stories of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And around the same time, we also saw that reality could be just as macabre with the murders of Jack the Ripper.

That leads to a sense of London being a scary place, with death around every corner. I find it interesting that Holmes, Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula were written by people who moved to London - two Scots and one Irish. There's an element of London being described by intepretation.

And I think that London has to be interpreted. It's a city that almost defies understanding, with it's incredible, intricate history of smaller areas joining together, each with their own individual culture and background, as complicated as the roadmap. It's constantly changing, often in front of your eyes as you walk down one part or another and suddenly an entire block has been torn down. It can be difficult to get a concrete idea of sometimes, because it keeps changing.

London is very vital. It's very of the moment, because occasionally you'll look around an area and realise just how much it's changed over a few years. And it does change. One of the things I find fascinating about London is how much of it has been lost. There's still plenty there, obviously, but there are bits that have been lost over the years, between fires, plagues, bombs and development. Identities of areas change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

But the past remains. It's burned into the city. The stories are there, planting this idea of London into people's heads. And the fact that the city has changed so much somehow makes it only more real. It's not past that we can see and hold and touch. It's past that exists more in the realm of story. Of myth. Of legend. A London that exists with some foundations in the ground, and other foundations buried deep in the memory... the personal memory and the cultural.

The London of the real and the London of the stories.

And somehow, it's all the same London.

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