Once I thought London a constant. Its great beastly workings growled with organic mechanism which seemed unstoppable, a perfect matrimony to the great march of onslaughting technology. Its inhabitants, minor as they were on individual reckoning, became en-masse the veins and blood vessels of this magnificent creature, the City. London in all it harboured beneath its great wings and in the sputtering underbelly of industry glowed with the bright light of immortality.
Its changes were subtle, but many, fusing into a perfect timeline of indistinguishable events from which a lifeline could not be untangled. Does a flea, surrounded by the dog-fur on which it lives, notice that the dog has grown old? Does it see that its coat is now greyer than the days of yore? Does it spot these things among the impenetrable forest of hairs in which it has made its home? A flea can no more see the hulking mass of that canine grow weak and alter than can a Londoner, wrapped up in her mother's streets and bustling activities, see the land upon which she stands sink a little further into the dark chasm which has already swallowed up the cobbles of Vikings, Romans, Elizabethans, civilizations which once thought themselves as unending as the ones we find ourselves in now.
London is not the same as I remember it. I confess, as every young person I found it immeasurable, unable even to consider its presence as a concrete abstract, let alone its absence in a theoretical world of future intent, under a society which would care nothing for what we had once endured. We are now, or were, mere eccentricities of the past. My London and my people are lost to an unnoticed death, a silent slipping sideways to join the layers of those before us. It lives now unrecognisable but for the worn features of its faces, Big Ben chiming mournfully for a grave it does not know it grieves, Grosvenor Square now embittered to newer residents in the teeth of its borders.
I thought my time a constant. I thought there would never come a moment when I did not feel at home in my city. Upon occasion, I linger my hand on a well-hewn wall with its years of servitude and I feel the echoes of that creature I found so familiar, whispering up unto me from its burial, calling me back to my remembrances and twisting something deep and naive in my heart. 'Oh, London,' I whisper, with the only reverence left in my black soul, and I feel it hum back, weaker still than even the shadows of ghosts.
We stand a moment still; myself, and the London of my memories that once cradled me in its cruel and unforgiving mistressy, and we give a thought to the tubes of smoke and clacking hoofbeats that christened daily the heart of Queen Victoria's capital. I weep dry for the home I cannot return to.