Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Streets of London: 1812 to 2012

I went in with quiet, timid step. God knows how infantile the memory may have been that was awakened in me at the sound of my mother’s voice in the old parlour when I set foot in the hall.
Today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth.
Dickens is justifiably credited with having created some of the most iconic characters in English literature. His works have never been out-of-print and many have been turned into movies and TV series’.
I think I must have laid in her arms and heard her singing to me when I was but a baby. The strain was new to me but it was so old that it filled my heart brimful like a friend come back from a long absence.

Although born in Portsmouth, he lived in various parts of London – Bloomsbury, Camden Town, Southwark – which I happen to know rather well. Many of his stories take place in or were inspired by these locations.
I believed from the solitary and thoughtful way in which my mother murmured her song that she was alone, and I went softly into the room. She was sitting by the fire, suckling an infant whose tiny hand she held against her neck.

When I think of Dickens’ London, it always brings to my mind the glorious sketches and engravings of William Hogarth (1697 – 1764). Both Dickens and Hogarth manage to convey some deep truth about the human condition disguised in the form of cartoonish caricatures.
Her eyes were looking down upon its face and she sat singing to it. I was so far right that she had no other companion. I spoke to her and she started and cried out.

And now, as I walk the streets of London, I sometimes cannot help wondering how far – as a civilisation – we have advanced in the last 200 years. Sure, we have energy efficient electric street lamps instead of gas lamps, and we have an organised Metropolitan Police Force instead of Peelers; we have clean water and a reliable sewerage system.
These are all essential fundamentals of any developed country.
But seeing me she called me her dear Davy, her own boy; and coming half way across the room to meet me, kneeled down upon the ground and kissed me, and laid my head down on her bosom near the little creature that was nestling there, and put its hand up to my lips.

But also, just as Dickens father was imprisoned in 1824 for his inability to pay off his debts, we continue to evolve a society where the majority are condemned to a life of debt slavery; where gross financial inequality is the norm; where only a handful gets to share in the wealth of the nation.
With such a rapid human population explosion over the last 50 years, this is simply an unsustainable condition.
I do not believe that the economic model of the last 200 years will successfully negotiate the next 200.
Politicians, bankers and others’ whom - by god, we do not trust - need take heed. Billions of people are looking for a new paradigm.

I wish I had died. I wish I had died then, with that feeling in my heart. I should have been more fit for heaven than I have ever been since.


  1. OMG je suis submergée de souvenirs : Euston, Stockwell, Clapham Common, Brixton, Camden, Finchley Road, Hamstead (places where I used to live in late 70's / early 80's) .... and Open Life for the two first pics (winks to Debbie & Adec) ! I love this song

    Kluteiful hugs

  2. Amazing post Pixie, ty. I've loved Charles Dickens work for as long as i can remember. Plus i've always been fascinated by art work of that style, it has so much energy and is so busy, sometimes taking the picture in is like reading a page. lol

  3. @Klute. I live near there! The first two pictures are probably Hogarth's most well-known: "Gin Lane" & "Beer Alley"

    @Serenity. Thank you. Yeah, Hogarth's sketches are so detailed they can keep you absorbed for hours. Hogarth's & Dickens' art works so well together.