My Mother might well tell you it started with Peter Pan, and she is probably right. The nightscape of the city as seen from the Darling’s nursery window was just pure enchantment to me as a child. I myself think Mary Poppins had a lot to do with it as well. Following close behind her (“Step lively, now!”) down Cherry Tree Lane to visit Uncle Albert or to walk through the park was as real to me as anything outside my own front door and much more magical.
Growing up I discovered other parts of the city, each one as captivating as the last. Lady Dedlock and Sherlock Holmes took me down darker streets. The Schlegel sisters fascinated me. And my eternal favourite, Clarissa Dalloway, let me through St. James Park on a route I could now walk with my eyes closed.
Later I dove into history with abandon, finding, rightly or wrongly, the machinations of the Tudor court infinitely more thrilling than anything that occurred at Lexington or Concord. Elizabeth I and her doomed Scottish cousin, Henry VIII and his outsized arrogance, Victoria and her grief - I devoured it all with relish.
I discovered London through books which is, I think, one of the best introductions one could possibly have to the old city. When I finally placed my own oxfords upon its hallowed ground I was delighted to find precisely what I sought. The London of books is just as real as air. Every corner is a revelation, every park an Eden. It is a magical city, full of wonder and beauty and the ghosts of the past walk beside me, nearly visible, each time I visit, which is as often as I’m able.
I am on a plane to London tonight.
You are more than welcome to come along with me if you like: