Madeeha Ansari has some thing(s) to do with development, primary schools and story-time. She blogs at writespacetime.wordpress.com.
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The Luxury of a Pensive Mood
I’m not sure where I’ll go, because my eyes are tired of the places I know. If I continue down this road, I will get to Baker Street. I have already seen the large vacant lot beyond Kings Cross and am not brave enough to venture in the direction of Camden Town at night. As for Southampton Row – well.
So I stop before the war monument in front of Euston station, and look up at the stone officers looking down. They look a little wistful, and one of them has a long nose. The wreaths of poppies below them flutter a little as they lie among the moss and brown leaves.
I move on and look for the cardboard sign that had been in the green patch a few months ago. The one that said, “Here sat old Charlie and his dog. He will not be forgotten.”
But it is no longer there, and there may have been no mention of a dog.
A woman who may have been Charlie’s friend stands with her crutches, laughing so I can see her teeth. Perhaps the man on the bench made a joke, but I didn’t hear. I also did not hear the man standing with the streetlamp strapped with bouquets for sale. I think he shouted something at me, but there are headphones in my ears and the only things rattling in my pocket are the keys to the flat. It is easier to think he meant someone else.
It feels good to walk. The wind blows into my face and I push on against it, shaking off the lethargy of a day at home. It has been a while since I walked without talking, or thinking of things other than what is around me.
Two people, holding hands, one freshly showered. Three girls from out of town, dressed for a night in the city. Me in my red flip flops, hiding in a hoodie.
I do love Gower Street. Someone must work in each one of the little box-like rooms – academics in blue cardigans, I think, with the interests of the world at heart. Someone must also live beyond the doors under the cherubs with their flared nostrils and that funny look of alarm.
Then there comes the great domed library. I stop to soak in this – the feeling of absolute autonomy.
I can sit on the steps or on the grass, I can have a sandwich and never move. If I come early, I can sit in the Law Department, or Archaeology or German or Finnish or Norwegian. People around me don’t mind sitting alone, or in groups. I can sit here and scribble nonsense, with nobody peering over the page.
It may never be like this again. There will always be some expectation to meet, some watchful gaze to live up to. An appreciative glance from that beautiful boy and suddenly I am self-conscious again.
I wonder, still, about things that could have been. The mind wanders to dangerous territories beyond Economics and Houghton Street, before newfound loyalty reins it in. Then it drifts towards things that can be, if – and there it stops.
Far better to drift nowhere at all, to sit here without breaking the sense of completeness. And then to get up and stride on.
On to the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where “Health Minister Chamberlain” placed an inaugural stone. People who I wish I knew are standing outside a newly opened art gallery, still more outside the University of London Union. I wonder if I will ever try the gym, or make any conversation if I did.
Just before hitting Southampton Row, there is a church with tall red doors and a tangled back yard. I think fleetingly of God – and then there is that too-familiar sight of things that look just this way in just this light, just at night.
There are many things on this route that I would like to photograph before I leave.
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