Monday, 30 December 2013

My Beautiful Children

 Christmas is complicated in our combined family, perhaps for all families as we all try and see as many family members as possible.  I have three sons and a daughter-in-law and my partner has three sons, a daughter and a small granddaughter.  Two of his children are in serious long-term relationships and the youngest has recently taken the initiative and is engaged. I now have a relationship with people for whom there is no clear definition - my partner's son's fiancee visited over Christmas and as for her extended family, both her parents are divorced and re-married to people with families of their own.  Modern life is complicated.

I was talking about this recently in my weekly French class; my teacher is a French national and she and her partner came over to England about 10 years ago and settled in East Anglia, running a very successful cafe with delicious home-made food and welcoming fires, all very much in the French tradition and very popular too!  I can drop in for a cup of coffee and a croissant before heading upstairs for some serious French conversation. She tells me that the French too have no words for this complex interweaving of family ties but simply have the same name for in-laws and step-relations. Thus my daughter-in-law, my step-daughter and step-daughter-in-law-to-be are all my belles filles, my beautiful daughters, and my step-sons etc are my beaux fils. So they are all my beautiful children!

And it was wonderful to see so many of them over Christmas.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

City of Dreams

The fast evening train to Liverpool Street cut through the darkening countryside, the hinterland, the outer suburbs and the inner city; high rise flats, little boxes stacked one on top of the other, each little box containing someone's life, their hopes and dreams, their fears and failures, every individual with their own path to follow, their own agenda and challenges to face.  Lights shining out into the darkness.

Then suddenly it reared up, towering above the cheap, high rise blocks of flats.  A wall of glass and steel, chrome and concrete, sharply defined corners and hard edges, bright lights, tempting, challenging. The City of London, the ancient Square Mile, city of dreams and towers, a city that can make or break you, destroy you and spit you out, or endow you with riches beyond your wildest dreams.  Enter at your peril for it will surely change your life for ever!

I came to the City over 40 years ago, a young girl fresh from the provinces, weaving her dreams, with an exciting new job in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral and an entire life stretching before her.  A crisp, white page waiting for a story to be written on it.  It's a rather tattered page now, with lots of crossings out, re-writing and notes in the margin but there's still space for more as I work my way through my story.  I worked in the City for 10 years, met the man who became my husband, had children and moved out to the country, living the dream, and it has been a constant thread running through my life ever since, although the marriage has long gone.  But life turns full circle and so last night I found myself yet again in the City of London, dressed up for a formal dinner with my partner at his club, sitting chatting with new friends and watching the dark waters of the Thames flowing swiftly past the windows on its relentless journey to the sea.

I rarely come into London now and it is an expensive treat but there is a sense that, after all that has happened and all the changes in my life, all I have gone through since I first came to this place, I am at peace with this great City.  In the end it is a mirror.  It can only do to you what your own spirit allows it to do.