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London Calling This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It was hardly a fairy tale. I was sandwiched between strangers, trying to withstand the shoving and avoid getting my feet stepped on. The mass of people around me chattered away in a mess of languages that merged together into one continuous, sickly-sounding drone.

Yes, this was no fairy tale. In reality (or in my reality, at least) it was merely an unpleasant experience that had thus far included being rounded up like sheep by the police, getting practically mauled by an excited crowd, and almost freezing to death. This was the scene outside Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guard.

Perhaps my opinion would have been less cynical if a six-foot French man hadn't chosen to stand in front of me, obscuring my view to the point that I could only make out the tips of the furry black hats bobbing along, joined occasionally by the tip of a flag post. Even among the excitement of the brass band and mobs of tourists cordoned off by police tape, the palace failed to spark much excitement in me.

For me, the wonder wasn't in the building as it is today, a shell of what it used to be, reduced to something like a circus. A wave of quiet awe swept over me as I stood on tiptoe, staring through a tiny gap in the crowd. I thought of Queen Victoria, the first monarch to live in the spectacular palace. In those days, when royalty was real, there weren't hundreds of cameras flashing or tourists waving tacky Union Jack hats.

I spent the rest of the day in a similar fashion, picturing London as it had been, rather than as it is today. I ignored the shabby blocks of flats that stretched 20 stories high like weeds growing out of the concrete jungle. Instead, Big Ben was the tallest tower in the city, looking out over the Thames with pride in its beautiful, intricate structure. The soulless glass office buildings disappeared too, allowing Shakespeare's Globe Theater to stand with dignity in its original location. The harsh clatter of traffic melted into the rhythmic clop-clop of horses' hooves on cobblestone streets. Through my eyes, the throng of sightseers clutching maps transformed into ladies with trailing dresses and gentlemen with top hats and canes.

But the hustle and bustle of London is constant, regardless of how my imagination warps the image. People have always rushed to and fro – by foot, by horse and cart, or by glossy red double-decker bus. Likewise, the theme of tragedy has stood the test of time in this magnificent city, although the subject is always changing. Tens of thousands died a gruesome death at the hands of the Black Death. The Great London Fire consumed 13,000 homes. Jack the Ripper murdered prostitutes in Whitechapel. The Germans bombed London for 76 consecutive nights. In 2005, 52 civilians tragically lost their lives to suicide bombers.

Nevertheless, the city still stands, and as I wandered through the crowd with the calls of street merchants ringing in my ears, I stopped to consider the London of today – the struggle to catch the Tube, the roar of traffic, the ugly buildings that cast shadows over Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's. I looked around and reminded myself that the historic diamonds of London haven't disappeared. You just have to wipe away the dust that is the twenty-first century in order to see them sparkle.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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CupcakeSaffy said...
Sept. 1, 2011 at 11:26 am
What a beautiful piece of writing! I agree with you - when I went to London I was a bit miffed by the atmosphere, but it's about finding the right places and, as you have obviously mastered, the technique to see things differently. It would be much nicer to visit places in the past rather than the present (imagine watching the pyramids being built, or seeing the Romans in battle, or sitting in an Aztec temple before it became ruins!) but as long as you've imagination, it's easy to pretend. Five ... (more »)
 
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