A few days ago someone asked me what I would miss most about London if I moved away. My first response was ‘everything’ – except tourists, traffic, noise… but I really couldn’t think of anything specific that I would miss.
Until today when I cut down a side street and ahead of me was a large open gate in a wall of black boards and beyond the opening, the most enormous open space where something once was.
As I got closer, the security guard closed the gate so I had to walk around the hoardings until I found a gap to peer through. What I saw was the city equivalent of a valley filled with rubble and, standing off to one side, what looked very much like an old mid-building chapel.
The area seemed so familiar and oddly sad but I couldn’t work out what had been demolished until I came across the building company’s sign identifying a new development called ‘Noho’ on the site of the old Middlesex hospital.
So that’s what was missing. I only went there once. It was to see my uncle who was in for what I believe had started with prostate cancer. He wasn’t there for long but whatever they did for him didn’t work.
As I walked around the edge of the space, I wondered about all the people who’d been through there over the years and how hospitals were such strange places, filled with sorrow and joy and endless hope.
At one edge of the space, the facade of an old street of boarded up shops was being propped up with scaffolding and it made me smile to think of some trendy new development with one wall of ancient London stuck on to it.
It was this lack of building which made me realise what I would miss most if I should ever leave London. I would miss the temporary holes that are made, allowing glimpses of bits of the city that I’ve never seen before and probably will never be able to see again.