When I met up for a coffee with Shaneen Clarke recently, we marveled about how as sisters in Christ we can go deep immediately even though we are new friends. That’s such a gift that God gives, and one I don’t take for granted. I love her passion and her faith, and the way she travels around the world sharing the news of God’s love and life. Here she adds a London-centric addition to our “There’s No Place Like Home” series, which of course I love as an adopted Londoner. And her poem rocks.
London has a resident population of 9 million and an annual tourist population of 19 million. Its history spans Anno Domini an embanks itself on the River Thames. London boasts as the financial centre of the world as its clock at Greenwich allows simultaneous trading from Tokyo, Beijing and New York.
London has four airports, one helipad at Wandsworth and the rich can land their private jets within 40 minutes of the city centre. The centre of Government at Westminster houses the rulers of the nation with its buildings of Government huddled within walking distance. From Dick Whittington to Boris Johnson it has a Lord and London Mayor, from ceremonial to legal. This capital city houses two of the oldest professions and the one so respectfully guarded is the world centre of justice where anyone can come at fine price to seek and find justice. Its legal system designed by kings, founded by Romans has sufficient flex to allow Islamic ruling.
It is the world centre for any religion; its willingness to allow freedom of speech and demonstration caters for all. Its two cathedrals house the ranks of Christianity and its abbey at Westminster marries and buries monarchs. Its Royal Family is the oldest and has survived and thrived as ultimate ruler with little power to rule.
Its underground tube rail system along with its Victorian sewer systems creak at every edge crying for renewal as they wash through the masses and their waste daily. The ever increasing density and pressure of commerce attracts the rodents, rats and foxes of all shapes and sizes. The opportunities to house, feed and attract the people compound every business opportunity and its streets are paved with gold. Yet its homeless lie there and beggars are allowed to beg on streets, trains and buses occasionally moved on by its Community Police force. From Robert Peel its Peelers, Coppers and Bobbies have maintained order with the City and Metropolitan Forces.
London with its streets designed for horse and cart is the busiest traffic grid in the world served by two circular roads north and south with one single circular motorway which from air looks more like a car park. Its famous black cab has been allowed to be usurped and attacked by mini cabs, Addison Lee and Uber bring clamour and chaos to private transport whilst its daily congestion charge and road camera fines line the coffers of its government.
Its incredible labyrinth of museums, art galleries and concert halls wrapped in the bow of history is the envy of the planet. The old Tower of London as the seat of original government no longer executes people but stands as an attraction to many a ghoul, whilst the location of those hung drawn and quartered at Smithfield and Marble Arch are still proudly spoken of. Its London prisons built in Victorian times remain as torrid reminders to the populous and the scales above the Old Bailey a reminder of how ones life can so easily tip the wrong way.
London boasts the tallest building in Europe built on the wrong side of the Thames yet like cancer continues to feed all tributaries of life. Its main line railway stations connecting the masses via tunnel to Europe breaks with our island status yet the 2000 year debate to be joined with our continent continues. Its London buses driven no longer by the Jamaican but by Somalians and Ethiopians no longer know where Trafalgar Square is; the 87 languages heard create the buses of Babel daily.
It’s a city that somehow works, it’s a city of constant change; yet the longer one lives in it the more stranger one becomes. Squeezed like toothpaste, one can see one’s personal end and as we long for London of old we reminisce and are saddened at its plight not might. It’s the centre of all yet we know there is a better life beyond but we are glued to its connectivity, vibrancy and opportunity.
Shaneen Clarke is an author, speaker and evangelist who speaks and ministers internationally and has written Dare to be Great. She has been responsible for many educational and women’s initiatives and instigated the Ritz Tea in London where famous leaders address faith issues. She is a fluent Punjabi and Mandarin speaker in addition to her native English, and is married with two grown children.