Monday, 30 March 2009

The Beautiful City

The lack of a blog entry for the last few days is because on Wednesday I travelled to London to attend two meetings, and on Thursday and Friday I was too busy catching up with the emails and messages from Wednesday. Still, it was nice to get out of the office for a day.

If you work in London every day you may not have noticed recently that it is a stunning city. The first of the meetings I attended was in a glorious old building in Westminster, inside which was a modern law firm. Getting there involved me walking past the Houses of Parliament. Whatever your opinion of what goes on inside it, the building itself is beautiful. I walked past Westminster Abbey, which was also breathtaking. It was almost strange to see so many busses, taxis, cars and people plodding blithely past as though there was nothing to stop and stare in wonder at. Happily, of course, there were also plenty of tourists stopping and staring. I’ve lived in the South East for many years, and been to London many times, but luckily I’m not yet at the stage where all the amazing ancient architecture is just some blargh background to my life.

I was reminded on the way home that wonderful historic structures are not confined to London. Walking back from Rayleigh Station I passed “The Round House” which is indeed circular and is dated “1615”. And last weekend we drove through the Suffolk village of Somerleyton which seemed to consist of a handful of beautiful whitewashed thatched cottages set around a village green, and a large manor house in extensive gardens.

One thing which struck me in London as being different from, say, America, is that our historic buildings are still in use. The Houses of Parliament are the seat of government, religious worship still takes place in Westminster Abbey, The Round House had a Vauxhall Corsa parked outside and milk bottles on the doorstep, so evidently it still lived in, and Somerleyton has a thatched primary school. There has been a lot of fuss recently about the demolition of a village to make way for Heathrow’s eighteenth runway (or whatever, I can’t keep up). The village apparently includes a sixteenth-century pub. Can you imagine a sixteenth-century pub in America being razed to make way for an airport? But because sixteenth-century pubs are ten a penny here it seems that losing one doesn’t matter.

We take our history and gorgeous architecture very much for granted here, and we shouldn’t. Britain is a very beautiful country and we need occasionally to stop and appreciate it. So if you work in the City, take a moment today to look around and reflect on the astonishing beauty that surrounds you, and the history in those walls. It might help put your ever-expanding to-do list into perspective.

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