London - Not so Great Expectations
An English teacher, with the same name of a TV Sports Presenter at the time, had an idolatrous relationship with Charles Dickens during my school time. With the obsession of his demigod, he named his first child after Pip, the protagonist of Great Expectations. Although 'Pip' was adjusted to 'Philippa' for the gender of his offspring. So it was no surprise that this was the text we studied for GCSE. For a group of 14 year olds, the blinkers still on our wet eyes, the number of themes, the layers of meanings, hidden or seen, were too much for us. Our teachers skin, impervious to the cries of boredom and ignorance to the intricacies of the plot were swiftly ignored.
Coming back to the book through adult eyes of experience, it's easy to see how the different folds and layers of narrative, meanings, themes and motifs were missed. The main concept of the entrapment of Pip in London is acted out my millions of us living in the city today. Don't be fooled by the vintage editing of 'Made in Chelsea' or the saccharine joyful headlines of some new freestyle dancing yoga phenomenon gripping the population. London is a very lonely place amongst the masses running from one place to the next. Everyone is a stranger at 200mph.
The best time to sense London is when the migration of workers is complete and only the wandering tourists idle the streets. Without trying to anthropomorphise a city, it's the hours that London breathes a sigh of relief. This is the time to explore, to visit the places you can't see in the daylight through the mob.
And the aforementioned teacher? If only he could have been a contemporary of Dickens. They would have understood each others behaviour. Like Dickens, he was found in the bed, a legally aged bed, of a student at the school. "I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me."