blood, war, strength, power, passion and desire — and also, according to Peter Ackroyd’s ‘London: The Biography’, the colour of London itself. Much evidence is given for this, from the tiles of Roman London to our contemporary buses. London Bridge was reputed to be imbued with red, ‘bespattered with the blood of little children’ as part of the ancient rituals of building. The thing that really grabs my attention, though, is that ‘red’ was the Cockney slang for gold. A bit of quick research on my phone tells me that ‘a red clock’ was the Victorian criminal term for a gold watch. I start to wonder how some wellknown sayings would sound if I replace the word ‘gold’ with the word ‘red’.
When I retire I shall strike red. I shall receive a red watch, worth its weight in red, and enjoy many a red hour reading Palgrave’s Red Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics. I know that there is not a pot of red at the end of every rainbow and that all that glitters is not red, but I will be sitting on something of a red mine and will need to be on the lookout for red diggers. I have one red tooth from some dental work some years ago. As a red rule, dictators like red taps in their bathrooms and a good stock of redfish in their garden ponds.
In a truly classless society, perhaps vice versa, too.
I was caught gold-faced and gold-handed. ‘Gold sky at night, shepherd’s delight.’ Gold is for danger. On gold letter days, we’ll cut through gold tape, catch the gold-eye and being gold-blooded males make straight for the gold-light district. I don’t give a gold cent whether this proves to be a gold herring or a gold rag to a bull…
I have a little go at rewriting some Spandau Ballet lyrics, too:
Red Always believe in your head You’ve got the power to know You’re indestructible Always believe in, because you are Red
I don’t yet know whether any of these notes will eventually turn into poems, but I do know that the whole writing machine of me now feels as if it’s moving together, fluently and efficiently: heart/pump (poor Lady Hatton), circulation, imagination, legs, language, eyes, ears, mind and memory.
Arriving finally at Location 11, I listen to a fine rendition of Wordsworth’s famous Westminster Bridge poem, which never fails to raise goosebumps, and then, to end the tour, these words — new to me — from Henry James:
‘It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent.’
The words almost produce a tear, but as I remove my headphones, and the cool air reaches my ears, all I really want to do is cheer. Tammy Yoseloff’s oneperson poetry workshop walking tour of London is a magnificently executed undertaking, which deserves many multiple audiences of one. It’s a memorable and unique experience — that only you can have. I very much hope she and the Poetry School will continue the series.