Travel & Place / We Walk Through The City

We walk through the city.

We walk on tarmac, on paving stones, on moving metal staircases, on cobbles.

This cathedral was originally built five hundred years ago, on the site of another place of worship. Since then there have been at least five significant additions.

This office block is not yet finished. Its design involved thinking about the future of office work.

This factory, which produced steel for one hundred and fifty years, is abandoned, crumbling. Soon it will be knocked down.

In the park, the trees are two hundred years old. They are in bud. This old woman is taking her great-grand-daughter for a walk.

In the café, the tables are made to look like antiques. Our coffee is made by a technique invented in Europe two hundred and fifty years ago, refined recently by clever people in America and Australia. Our waiter arrived in the country illegally a few weeks ago. Next week he is due to be deported. These two men are playing chess. Chess was invented fifteen hundred years ago in India, probably.

In this area, the buildings are seven hundred years old. We get a sense of the city as it was then, its industry, its trade, its social interactions. But it wasn’t really like this was it? It was dirty, chaotic, dangerous. Now it’s clean and safe.

This man is planning a surprise party for his wife’s birthday.

In this gallery, the paintings are carefully preserved. They look almost identical to how they did when they were painted. But they are massively more valuable. They are protected by alarms. Don’t touch!

This man is about to put a large bet on a horse.

This bar, whose décor is essentially unchanged in seventy years, is popular with tourists, and with a group of climate change activists.

We watch a Shakespeare play. The text is four hundred years old, but the staging was invented in the last few weeks. The text is refracted through the sensibilities of the actors and the director. Parts of the text we find opaque, but the ways that the characters behave seem very familiar.

In this square, one hundred years ago, there was a massacre. Police and troops opened fire on a group of protesters. Now the square is used for rock concerts.

This woman is pregnant. Her daughter will become a doctor, climb Kilimanjaro for charity, be married three times, and die peacefully in this city, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

In the new state-of-the-art concert hall, we listen to a Mozart symphony. The score is two hundred and thirty years old. The musicians play replicas of period instruments. But who knows what the music sounded like then?

This old man claims to be able to remember a time when the city had no electricity. Can we believe him?

In the Chinese restaurant we are eating thousand-year-old eggs. They are not a thousand years old, more like a few months.

In the art deco cinema, a science fiction film is showing. It imagines a future world a thousand years hence. This imagined future is in some ways like the present, in some ways like the distant past. The ways people behave seem very familiar.

Night falls. We walk under the stars. The light from this star set out fifteen hundred years ago, at approximately the same time that people first settled here.

Words by Orlando Gough

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