The haiku is a direct quote from Chris Foster, formerly PC Chris Foster, on his experience of arriving to start work in the north of Bloomsbury in the early ’Seventies, directly after completing his police training.
“There we are!”
Today I learnt that history is a continuum.
Our stories, yours and mine, are interleaved in time
With every heroic act, every great exploit
And endeavour, each glorious building, each street.
And that that should not humble us or make us small
But embolden us that we all have been here too.
Because whilst our stories may not be chronicled
Or our exploits be remembered with a blue plaque
Or a bustling sunlit square named in our honour,
We will all, in our own way have contributed.
We will have known our own heroes and perhaps too
Become heroes ourselves, if only to a few.
In the overcast and torpid corners hidden
Within this city of oblivious grandeur,
I was enlightened, and lit up by the fulgor
And fullness of lives that shone with equal brightness
To the great-and-good, despite their obscurity,
And found pocket heroes at every kerbside.
We walked these less-travelled streets in the company
Of a guide, who for thirty years marked them as a
Constable of the Metropolitan Police,
And taught us to reinvision them as the stage
For cascading acts of optimism and change
Against a city once horrible and violent.
Regaling with stories of officers he knew –
Who policed but never judged the lives that they saw –
He retraces his beat through all the rough years of
Violence and vice, football thugs and fisticuffs.
Stopping to view places now so mild and harmless
He plots decades defined in thick swathes of misdeed –
From the loveless pitch of a nation’s working girls,
To lives worn paper-thin by drugs and petty crime.
Still he sees its dreadfulness magnanimously –
The consequence of other, former seediness –
The shabby inheritance of homesick navvies,
And of Georgian thrill-seekers’ failed optimism.
Because this is London and London will always
Respond and reclaim its tenements and alleyways;
Recultivate its gardens, and repopulate
Its streets with rekindled hope. Light sees out the dark.
And if you stand and you listen you will realise
From other people’s recollection of other
People’s lives – we have all added to that regrowth
And shone our own light in that multitude of lights.
Today I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes
And in between the Euston Road and High Holborn
Saw joy in celebrating lives I never knew.
Today I walked, and found myself in a good place.
Book now for Alternative King’s Cross & Holborn virtual walk, lead by Chris Foster, a former ‘bobby on the beat’