Thursday 29 June 2023

There and Back

 Yesterday I was obliged to go down to the sprawling megalopolis that is modern London, and out again to Heathrow to see Mrs N onto a flight for (ultimately) New Zealand. Although on the face of it all went smoothly, it was a grim experience. London seems to get noisier, more crowded, more alien and confusing every time I see it – such hordes of people ('So many, I had not thought death had undone so many'), all seemingly hurrying about some urgent private mission ('The creature has a purpose and his eyes are bright with it,' wrote Keats of a very much less populous city), so much noise and hustle, everything so hard to make sense of: what is the business of London? What are these people doing? Where does the money come from? It used to at least seem to make sense to me; now I find more and more things about London quite incomprehensible.
The view from the Heathrow Express was of acre after acre of mysterious box-like warehouses and 'hubs' of unidentifiable purpose, interspersed with vast construction sites building who knows what. Not so long ago much of this was Middlesex countryside; now it could be the outer sprawl of any city in the developed world.  London, a city I once loved, seems to have become foreign to me, a kind of Abroad but without the excitement or the pleasure. Perhaps I have become provincial? Am I a Mercian now? All I know is that coming back to Lichfield from London last night felt like a return to civilisation. And this morning I was cheered to see my first Ringlet of the butterfly year, on a scruffy grass bank in front of someone's house. That wouldn't happen in London. 

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