Wednesday 30 October 2013

The View From The Shard

One part of the celebrations leading up to my 21st birthday was to travel up The Shard, the tallest building in London.

I was especially excited to do this, because I've been fascinated by the building ever since its creation, it's located at such a poignant spot in the city (the first thing I see when I leave the station to go to my internship every day) and also, it's just the magnificence city of London itself.

I have always been obsessed with London, and even now, when I am lucky enough to work, live and love there for most of my time, my obsession grows nothing but stronger.

The city is electric.

And so, this was a beautiful way to spend the beginning of my birthday celebrations.

And my golly gosh, was the view nothing short of spectacular.

We had deliberately selected the time slot of 6:30pm so we could watch the sunset at 6:45pm.

There are two lifts which shoot you up the 60-odd stories in a matter of seconds - something which makes your stomach lurch and ears pop. But all that is quickly forgotten once you step out onto the viewing platform.

The surrounding panoramic view was simply breathtaking.

There were 3 different floors of which you could view, the topmost of which was open air. What surprised me most was how little the wind or cold reached you. It was actually rather toasty up there.

And as I looked around, all of a sudden I found myself becoming really choked up. A small hard lump began to rise in my throat as I looked out across the buildings and famous landmarks of the city I now called home.

The London Eye.

The Tower of London.

The Houses of Parliament.

Big Ben.

Buckingham Palace.

Tower Bridge.

This was London. But this was not my London.

My London was canals, underground bars, jazz clubs, mischief, vintage stores, the Overground, Spitalfields Market, Bishopsgate, Shoreditch and just East.

It was now almost impossible to think that the two were one and the same.

A flurried montage of memories came hurtling back to me. The family trips to see musicals in the West End, school trips to the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, shopping on Oxford Street for the first time with excitable schoolfriends, going to The Natural History and Science Museums, going to The Olympic Games and The Paralympic Closing Ceremony, the MR X chronicles, even X Factor auditions - in a time where London seemed the most magical and surreal place, somewhere you only ever go twice, maybe three times a year if you're lucky.

Even as a kid London had been magical to me and just stepping through the barriers and into the palatial London Victoria station had filled me with enough wonder that I could've turned around and gone back home satisfied.

And despite it being the same city, the same me and having the same level of fascination with it, here I was aged almost 21, with the same people who had been with me all those years ago, I suddenly felt myself painfully aware of time.

It wasn't so much that I suddenly felt old, or time had gone too quickly between then and now, it was more that I suddenly remembered what it was like then, and just how far away it was from here.

I suppose I mourned, then.

I mourned the loss of my childhood.

It was then that I noticed that my mum was staring at me. I looked down at her and smiled, giving her hand a little squeeze with mine. She looked out across the lego buildings and shoelace streets, and with a whimsical smile and a calm, omniscient look in her eye, she said to me;

"We're never going to get you back from here, are we?"

And although there was no sadness in her tone, the sudden profundity of her statement solidified that lump in my throat that made it difficult to swallow. And the overwhelming emotional conflict of, a) happiness that I'd achieved my dreams and it was my birthday, b) the pining loss of my childhood and realisation that I was no longer a child anymore c) gratitude for everything that had happened thus far in my life, and d) that a great time had passed, and was going to continue to sped up so, was just powerful enough a feeling, that remaining  in silence just about did it justice.

And so I put my arm around my Mother, rested my cheek against her forehead and squeezed her hand, watching the last dying rays of London sunshine peeking over the horizon, as the sun finally set on my childhood, and the first twinkling stars of the evening winked down with a welcome to the rest of my life.