January 26, 2007

Grey City Light

Smart Beautiful Wonderful Daughter, who is spending the semester in the City Where People Buy Fish and Chips Sprinkled with Vinegar and Wrapped in Newspaper, sent me some photographs over email. She has been gone for almost two weeks, so I was excited to see a picture of her, looking healthy and happy. And older, somehow.

My parents have a framed photograph of me that was taken when I was a college student living in European City Once Famous for Fog. In the photo, I am standing outside of the Towers Where Lots of People got Beheaded, and I am flirting with one of the guards. So my daughter sent me her imitation of that photo: she is flirting with the guard outside of the Palace Where the Royal Family Sometimes Lives. It is strange to think that my daughter is as old now as I used to be.

Seeing the photos brought back memories for me: during my semester abroad, I spent hours and hours wandering around by myself in the City Where Color is Spelled Colour. I had classes in the morning, but then my afternoons were free, and I used to just explore. I would wander into bakeries just to stand and smell the fresh bread, or flower shops just to get that moist smell of cut flowers. I'd look at the different kinds of architecture everywhere: grey stone churches, little shops tucked below stone arches, balconies and statues, carefully designed parks. I'd hurry along the grey sidewalks, staring in all directions at once, and then when my eyes were tired from so much stimulation, I would find a cosy place where I could drink afternoon tea from a smooth china cup.

I love to walk around and get the feel of a city. Each has their own personality. Big City Like No Other always seems so fast-paced to me, just being there makes me speed up and rush around like everyone else. Midwestern City With the Loser Baseball Team always seems as friendly as a small town to me. When I am in French City With Eiffel Tower I want to slow down, sit in a cafe – just eating and talking and people-watching.

During my semester in City With Great Theatres, I loved the tradition of afternoon tea, drinking hot tea and some kind of chocolate pastry, and then wandering through the streets aimlessly. Looking at my daughter's photographs made me think of those afternoons, the way the grey light shone from the buildings onto women selling flowers, the old man roasting chestnuts, and the children playing on the steps. I can just feel the damp chill of late afternoon, and remember the way the lights would go on inside buildings, as afternoon moved slowly into evening, time for me to head back to my flat and then to the local pub where I would gather with my friends for the evening.

trafalgar square

Photo taken by Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter.

11 comments:

Aliki2006 said...

I love that photo! I have a similar one myself, taken when I did study abroad in that same famous city. A friend took it and I'm standing by the fountain and I look so thrilled to be there--so excited by the moment!

I hope your daughter is settling in well with her adventure...

Dr.K said...

Good for her. A little part of me thinks I should want to be back at that age, doing that same kind of wandering exploration that I did in Eiffel Tower City, and hence says, "You should be just a tad envious of her"--except I'm not. That time was so magic that it hasn't left me yet, 20 years later. It was so romantic and so full, and I came back a different person and a better person. It's cool that she's in the midst of something similar, and it's cool that you got to do it too.

Kathryn said...

It is quite extraordinary sitting here amid the accustomed grey, reading these words that make the place I lived for getting on for 10 years sound romantic, exciting. Of course, when I was there, it was totally mundane, just the backdrop to the life of a busy 20-something. Your writing made me wish I could visit it as a stranger, and discover the magic that lurks just beneath the surface everywhere, if you only look expectantly.

Neil said...

I think it is wonderful that your daughter is now having some of the same experiences you had. Of course, your experiences will always be yours.

Linda (FM) said...

I love the way her experiences are bringing up memories of your own.

Jane Dark said...

Lovely photo.

halloweenlover said...

Sigh... I love it! Reminds me of my summer spent in Paris!

Kyla said...

Priceless memories.

liz said...

So fireplacing cool!

BeachMama said...

That is a cool photo, makes me want to take a trip back. It is really great that she is doing this, I was too chicken at her age to go by myself. We can't go back only forward. Hope she loves it as much as you did.

Anonymous said...

I've finally cracked the code to your pseudonyms! The City Where Color is Spelled Colour--that's Sydney, right? So now I know who everyone in your blog is!