Saturday, July 21, 2007

Without sunglasses it looked more "real"...

I haven't been in London for more than a year - last time it was winter and I had packed for Middle Eastern heat. Brrr....

I arrived today to beautiful sunshine that blazed through breakfast at a street cafe and a hot latte that spelled comfort in its swirl of warm coffee brown and steamed pure white milk. Then the rain crashed down, much as it had during my past month in Nova Scotia, and I decided, "so much the better for me to drift off and erase the red eye that departed Halifax the previous midnight."

My stomach - and regal Balda's insistent yowl - wakes me to ominous but dry skies and the pub around the corner is calling me to partake of a hand-pumped Extra Special Bitter and a spicy pork chop. The bitter is slightly flat under its natural carbonation, but so tasty I am willing to pass that as atmosphere (and give into my suspicion that that is the way it is supposed to be).

Winding my way to Regent's Canal I wonder at the bricks in the bricks in the road, the painted doors and the distinctly Britishness of the entire scene. I love London at this moment and begin my flight of fancy - planning my move and the life I will build here. An indulgence I allow myself.

The canal is easy to find, as I remember it from our wanderings last year. As I turn onto the tow path and catch site of the long narrow houseboat, Russia, moored where it was last year but now with a large "For Sale" sign painted on its side, I turn back to crane my neck and peer down the long tunnel that flows under Islington to let the long barges pass.

Something touches me heart and I almost gasp - then I take my sunglasses off and am struck by the fact that the removal of yellow-tinged glass makes it look strikingly more real, but no less poetically beautiful.

I pass under Caledonian Road, see the Seahorse and Kingfisher moored as if eternal (or carefully staged for each of my visits...?). I pass Maidenlane Bridge and see St. Pancras Lock in the distance, hearing the water spill over its sluice doors and seeing the squat lock keeper's cottage like a postcard.

Just the names are romantic - Maidenlane Bridge, Caledonian Road - and I leave you with the images they convey. Rough, moldering stones set in mortar mixed by our ancestors in times long past.

Just normal life I guess, to the millions that inhabit London every day, but the stuff that dreams are made of to the traveller that breathes the air and feels it rarefied and special. I have to remember the childlike excitement at adventure that flickers in all of us and gets tamed by familiarity - even familiarity with encountering the "new"....

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