You can keep you Gherkin and the Barbican and Battersea Station. You can even keep your Westminster and your National Theatre. Dare I say it, you can also keep the Shard. There is nothing that evokes such tender feelings in me than a tiny bridge suspended over Floral Street. I know most people don’t see it because I’ve pointed it out to friends (and boyfriends) who had never actually noticed it.
Don’t know what’s going on? I’m leaving London soon so this is one of my 20 London stories – a celebration of 20 years of my life here.
I’m not a fan of architecture – let’s start from that. This sounds peculiar (since, how can you not be a fan of architecture considering that we all live in things that architecture made?) I basically mean that it rarely excites me. I like some things but I don’t go into the details and I don’t google them like I do with some art or some music. But, as we all know, there are some things that speak to us – and who the hell knows why?
The bridge of aspiration is one such thing. It’s a construction that literally connects the Royal Ballet School to the Royal Opera House. The entry and exit points are at different levels and the “box” itself (though I’m sure there’s a more elegant and accurate word) twists and – almost – moves. Or I’ve always thought it looks like it moves – I’m sure it’s actually quite steady.
I used to walk around London a lot (then the pandemic happened) for work, after meeting friends and usually before and after some sort of show – a concert, dance or the theatre. Especially after show, walking helps me emotionally process what I saw or heard. It’s difficult to explain… I know some people love talking about what they saw – my mother is one of those people. I loathe that. Art is more of a personal process for me – which I think also explains why I enjoy going to shows alone so much.
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One such evening I raised my head as I was passing Floral street and I saw it, the bridge of aspiration. I used to do ballet as a child – have I ever mentioned that? I’ve always found the sheer exhaustion, determination and punishing life of a dancer fascinating. You spend most of your younger years training non stop, to get into a fantastic school where you are not special anymore, you are one of many incredibly talented people, to make a bet of VERY LOW ODDS that you will one day be an actual professional dancer.
I don’t know if you do this but I tell stories to myself. The bridge of aspiration is one such story for all dancers. Work hard, know that there is a connection between your school and the company. Know that the path is twisted and uneven but that there’s a door, a way, a connection.
That, as most cynics know, is a lie for the vast majority of dancers.
There is no system that guarantees you a place at the company. What there is, is hope. And a story you tell yourself to get up every day, keep breathing and follow your gruelling schedule to get somewhere, who the hell knows if it’s where you thought you might get.
That thought, is exactly how I think of my 20 years in London. Sometimes when I talk to friends in Greece they seem to think that the life of an immigrant here is a bed of roses. And that is incredibly far from the truth. The life of an immigrant – yes, even a white privileged one – can be tough. In comparison to the life of a refugee it’s a walk in the park – obviously very aware of my privilege here – but it is not a case of “Welcome to London, which company would you like to be CEO of, let us explain yourself to yourself and find you the love of your life, what will fulfill you and bring you peace, joy and happiness”.
I’m hoping that my 20 stories are giving a glimpse of the reality – there’s good and bad in every country, in every story, in every life. Yes, the capitalist dream tries to convince us that there is a connection. Study hard, work hard, be dedicated and consistent, there is a, a door, a way forward, from humble beginnings to the promised land.
There is not.
But, there is a twisted path. It’s uneven, it’s scary, it looks like a black hole passage from the original Star Trek or other times it looks like an architectural dream (not that those two are mutually exclusive). And sometimes, while you work hard and persevere and take a deep breath and stay the course, sometimes, if you are also somewhat lucky, you might be able to pass through it.
And that, basically, has been London for me over these last 20 years. The hope, the reality and the joy you find in between as well as the door, somewhere over there.
- Grexit/ Brexit
- The way to anyone’s heart is through the stomach
- The night bus
- Words save our lives… sometimes
- The rest is noise
- How not to bite your nails in the Officials’ Box
- Always have a sister
- Greek London
- This green and pleasant land
- The bridge of aspiration
- The knight in well travelled armor
- Carpets in the toilet and other adventures in housing
- Moments in Art
- The NHS hunger games
- In nocte consilium
- The friends we found, the friends we lost
- Blogging tips for beginners
- Lord of Gondolin, Bane of Gothmog, mighty beater of his headboard, conqueror of the slide, aka our child
- γνῶθι σεαυτόν
- How to leave London