A phone call from a stranger a week or so ago. Georgie was English, had spent the past six years in South Africa, back here and longing for there. A mutual friend suggested we meet, and tonight we did, two women, aging as I was told, and battered by life of late, but maybe its London, maybe its nighttime, we met at The Brigade on the South Bank and clicked. A special evening .
The Brigade has a special place in my heart. It is where I meet up with my sisters once a month. Where communal tables are laid and common bonds are forged. The two of us fell headlong into our stories of how we landed where we are at this very moment. What we loved about living in South Africa, how much we missed this … oh and that … and of course what wonderful space, attitude, weather and a formidable sense of confidence we feel when we are there. Georgie needed to speak of places I knew, names of streets, places, times, the turning of vine leaves in the Autumn. Of getting in the car and heading out to Hermanus for the day, that sort of thing. Landed at Cape Town airport, broken without ever having been there and made a new life for herself. South African allows one to do that.
While she was forging new avenues in South Africa, I was doing the same in London. Ah, London, we began. What was it about London we loved so much? Tolerance, diversity, the ability to be anonymous and yet linked by daily kindness. History and tradition. Modernism. The humour in ‘Elf and Safety.’ The ability to start again, fall spectacularly and find a stranger reaching out.
Both agreed how fortunate we were to be living here, and living there. That choice is not an option but blessed to have both. It was getting late, time to go, meeting again soon. As we left I said to her ‘ I have to show you something.’
Turning away from Tooley Street, we walked between the tallest of buildings, and there, like the curtains rising on a stage, before us , was a sight to behold. Between the Snail, the More London building across the river, eyes travelling over the jets of a blue lit fountain, the Tower of London and London Bridge. Lit up with neon makeup, statuesque, mighty and in a dark, rainy night, utterly beautiful.
People may break your heart, but beauty never will. Beauty in the vines, the shore, the river and city. Keep looking for the beauty, find it in the simple or the grand, and it will always make your heart sing.
We looked at each other, looked across the river and I said.’ That is what it’s all about. Beauty.’
My calling card. Seeking the beautiful, and when I find it, it always surprises me.