My story begins with dragons.
In a child’s world, everything is always proportionately so much larger. Children literally operate on a different level from grown ups; where the cuffs of sleeves are somehow related to disembodied voices emanating from somewhere up above. Distances are usually measured in time and minutes equal hours; meaning everything is always very, very far away.
As one such child, in the 80s, in the city, my worldview was not populated as you might imagine, by pin-suited yuppies, sweating and speaking far too loudly, but rather by something a little bit more chimerical. Although I’ll admit, there is something to be said about the fantastical unreality of what goes on on a trading floor…
For years I spent as a kid, my father worked in the square mile. A fairytale land inhabited by mythical creatures, entrusted with deep secret vaults – crypts – crammed with hidden gold. A theatre named the mermaid and a long history of sinister murders; all the important ingredients for a bestseller fantasy genre.
On rare days, I would visit him in his office, but first, I would be greeted by these strange and wonderful beasts. The same ones that still guard the boundaries of this enchanted world today. I remember the excitement at seeing them every time.
I am, of course, referring to the dragons.
They held some special importance to me. Not knowing their significance nor their origin I invented my own meaning for their existence.
They appeared to me as calcified relics from a time gone by. Fierce entities perhaps turned to stone by an evil curse, waiting silently for the decisive magical moment when they would come back to life. Presumably the exact same time when the ravens would flee the tower?
These beautiful yet terrifying creatures were seemingly caught in the act of a terrible screech, baring sharp teeth and serpentine tongues of fire. There must have been a most awful war of gods for these animals to have been captured and cast in stone with such furious expressions…
I longed for them to be revived so that I may mount their scaly backs and rise to the sky valiantly, imaginary sword in hand, ready for the next chapter, another battle.
In recent years however, I have found my once precious hometown lackluster and soulless. No longer is the sky populated by dragons, instead it is pierced with sharp objects of steel and glass. The majestic now replaced with the grotesque. Where once mysterious monster of lore resided, now reflective high-risers tower over the masses like sinister empty carcasses. Void of content, they are but superficial pretty faces, like airbrushed cover girls, designed to sell a distorted vision of the city below – built uniquely as fodder to entice Russian oligarchs and Chinese investors.
The act of growing up appears to have driven the magic out of this tough town. Its charm seemingly drained away, sucked out and exhausted.
A greyness descending silently and sluggishly, covering the horizon like a heavy haze.
Slowly suffocating. A stolen dream.
For years I walked the heavy pavements, from cornerstone to milestone, each notch engraved on the concrete like scars. The trappings of metropolitan life; all the beautiful and the damned.
I have watched as policies and economics mutilated the landscape – a spiritual deforestation of a place called home.
Eventually, it would seem that I did awake the dragons and mount the scaly back to fly away. I may not have had a sword in hand but I felt like I had one through the heart… and I needed to go somewhere to have it magically removed.
Sometimes, however, it just takes is a little perspective to see.
Today, I walked the old square mile and was once again greeted with this familiar vision of heraldic heroism. I felt a little tingle surge inside at the memories of a lost land and even a little anticipation of what might be to come… the next chapter in this mystical city’s evolving story.
London, my love, perhaps your fire still does burn vibrantly? But it seems a little shy these days. I live in hope that deep down in your vaults, a steady furnace is being stoked and that, just like the dragons, you are merely biding your time to return to your former glory.
When you’re ready, do give me a shout, – I’m just waiting for the toll of the bell… and riding dragons.