I live on the edge of London, in a sylvan suburb, the fringes of the Essex countryside, a place crisscrossed by motorway and patches of dark forest; a land where foxes dwell, and where concrete and field learn to coexist. Yet it is a short hop to the East of London, a place I often pass, and as with most London landmarks I remember still my first visits, days of boyish rapture, a tiny tourist filled with awe, and awash with unctuous ice cream. When my mother won a draw, two Luxair flights and a stay at the Horseguards Hotel, we set off to explore the city that would one day be my home. Each day began with a taxi journey, following a four-star cooked breakfast. I gazed beyond the window, at a tatty city, a city yet to unfurl into opulence. The Tower of London, a little boy’s historical dreamland, an orgy of English history. I felt happy, truly happy. It was a day not marred by domestic upset, nor by the cruel taunts of other children. It was a less manicured venue in the 1970s, a more ramshackle collection of armour, and quieter too. My ghoulish interest was peaked by a crude chopping block, the scene of savage and botched beheadings.
We returned the way we had arrived, in a large black cab, and on my knee, clutched in my hands was a treasure trove of creamy toffees and small souvenirs.
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