I seem to waste so much of my time wishing I were elsewhere – dreaming away my life, as my parents used to accuse me of (and quite rightly). If I’m having a coffee at home then I wish I was drinking it at a cafe in Sicily where the air is full of the smell of sugar and chocolate. If I’m walking by the sea then I wish it was along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where rather startling-looking women walk their dainty dogs. It would seem that I believe life is elsewhere and that the grass is always greener…And so it makes a lovely change to walk through Sydney, as I did yesterday, and think: this is where I want to be today. No yearning for Parisian boulevards or Alpine villages or even the familiar streets of Harrogate, my family town.
And why I would even be thinking this was because I happened to stroll down the laneway alongside the City Recital Hall in Angel Place (having just heard Andreas Scholl sing Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater that brought tears to my eyes) and looked up to see all these silvery birdcages suspended over me.
In the late afternoon sun, they seemed like an apparition, a touch of magic. It reminds me how such small things can nurture us, whether it’s the natural happenstance of a terrific sunset or something more designed, like these birdcages. I liked it particularly because it is hidden away, waiting to be discovered, pleasing only those who care to cut through the lane.
The love of cities is made from hidden treasures, whether it’s a crumbling old smokestack or the curlicue of a Wren church tower rising up into the sky, the sudden glitter of a harbour at the end of a dismal street or hearing a flute playing out from a Renaissance alleyway. The details are so important, making us feel better. Making us feel present.