Saturday, 28 April 2018

London – From a Writer’s Perspective

If it were not for the pictures saved in my phone, I would be having a hard time believing that just a month ago I was walking around in London in a heavy downpour.

Talk about a true local experience.

It is so hard not to gush and squeal about my experiences when I talk about my trip, but the truth is that it had been a dream come true. I had not realized how much this experience would mean to me until I was actually walking in the streets of this old and beautiful city. As I walked across the London Bridge (to it’s credit, it did not fall down) over the River Thames, only the realization of people staring at me stopped me from dancing on my toes.

London England Writer Author Trip Review

I could talk about all the touristy things we did in London, my sister and I. But there are more than thousands of blogs covering the tourist and travel aspect. I want to talk about what really moved me about London.

The literary aspect of it.

Only once I reached our cozy little bed and breakfast building right beside the Hyde Park that I realized that I am now in the land of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of course, the (in)famous William Shakespeare.

London Sherlock Holmes Museum 221B Baker Street
London Sherlock Holmes Museum 221B Baker StreetThe literary history of London seems to have almost seeped into the very cobblestoned roads of the city. For example, the moment my sister and I walked out of the Baker Street underground train station, who would greet us except the metal statue of the great detective himself, Sherlock Holmes! I knew that there was a museum nearby at the address of 221b Baker Street, but what thrilled me is the sign that showed the way to it. All it included was the silhouette
e of Sherlock with his classic trademark pipe, and the famous 3-digit number of the house: 221.

I think that’s where I got hit with this intense feeling of realization. This one single character that came out of the creative imagination of one single person, has become familiar to the point that not even words are needed to explain him. People recognize Sherlock from the most miniscule details, a pipe, a violin, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” It is astounding how we are able to identify Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character so simply.

Same goes for Harry Potter, Joanne Kathleen Rowling’s unforgettable creation. The boy with the round glasses and lightening shaped scar has captured our hearts and minds so immensely that people (including us) will wait in line for an hour and a half just to take a picture with a “vanishing” trolley – our attempt to at least somehow capture the essence of going through platform nine and three quarters to board the train to Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Platform nine and three quarters Hogwarts

Such is the magic that can appear from the simple rearrangement of alphabet on dead trees, i.e. a book. They are nothing but words on a page, and yet they can create the most vivid imagery in the mind of those who read it. It doesn’t stop there, though, does it? No, these characters become part of our lives, and forever live on in our memories. And as we hand down these books to the next person in line, these characters live on, from memory to memory.

A trip to the British Library revealed a room full of treasure. The exhibition, aptly named “Treasures of the British Library” is a room full of actual, real, historical documents from the olden times. I keep talking about it a lot, mostly because, since we were not allowed to take pictures, speaking about it is the only way I can hold on to the enchantment I felt at that time. I mean, most of us have read Pride and Prejudice, or some other books by Jane Austen. Looking at her own handwriting about one of her unfinished stories though, I had no words to describe that feeling. Among other works, we got to see sheet music of Chopin and Bach, as well as a page from the notebook of Ian Fleming, creator of 007, the one and only James Bond, as well as Milton’s poetry.

What really struck me was that these were writers, just like us now. They also carried a notebook, jotted down ideas, some of which saw the light of the day while others disappeared in the crevices of drawers or garbage cans. But they were like us, and we are now following in their footsteps. Even though all we have left of them right now are these hand written old pages, they have become forever immortal through their works.

Isn’t that what we all are trying to achieve though? Why else would we keep on squeezing our brain to produce these stories? Because when all is said and done, stories are what remain, and through them, the creator of these stories live on. In our world, that is the closest that we can come to immortality.

Visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, was also such fun. It would have had been a lot more fun if the sun had come up. Curse you, London’s cloudy weather! Still, it was surreal to see his house. I don’t think his parent could ever have imagined that one day, not only would their son be responsible for the creation of masterpieces, but also change the course of English language with a colorful and ingenious array of insults that the world would ever see (“Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat.”, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 4) as well as invent approximately 1700 new words to be added to the language!

Shakespeare Stratford upon Avon London England

Fun Fact: The name “Avon” literally means “river” in Celtic. So technically, that’s the River river that the town of Stratford is beside.

Standing there at the side of the river, I could feel nothing but reverence. Shakespeare was just one person with the talent and gift of writing. I’m sure even he would not have foreseen the legacy he was going to leave behind. Even after more than 400 years, we are still quoting his words, watching his plays, and remembering him in our lives.

Straford upon Avon Shakespeare London England

As writers, is it not the same thing that we hope for? To have something to leave behind, something that people will read and remember us by, so that we are not forgotten? True, not too many of us can reach the height of Shakespeare, but it is definitely something I know we all aspire to, to be remembered.

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