On the Ups in the Downs

The late and very great Douglas Adams once said something along lines of "Nobody has ever said someone was as beautiful as an airport." (The memory that's been jogged dates back at least half my life so I'm sure someone can put me right.) Quite a few people might blush with pleasure if told they were as beautiful as Venice or Paris but telling a beloved that they remind you of London would neither start an evening well nor end a night on a high note. But this city has a beauty which is real and vital; on a sunny morning you can sense eight million people waking up. When you walk to work you can smell the flowers in their gardens which, like you, are arching into the sunlight. London is lived in and living. It has a heart that beats and a fine soul.

But like a great companion whose company burns so bright you need to escape periodically to stop your eyebrows burning, once in a while you must duck out of town. I made it to Hay-on-Wye for the book festival a few weeks ago and Melvyn Bragg preached the best sermon I've heard all year on the legacy of the KJV. A heck of a warm guy. And eating lunch on a rock on the Wye was a supreme pleasure.

Growing up, I heard English people talk about going for a walk "on the downs" and wondered what this involved. Now I know. Just a short way south of London are rolling meadows which are pretty enchanting.

The fresh air is so rich in oxygen that it knocks you out as if Morpheus had dropped a piano on your head. But the opportunity to use some long-rang vision and look out on a skyline unclutterd by anything but sky is rather wonderful. A day like this gives you the appetite to dive back into the smoke.

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