I would rise pre-dawn to catch the 38 bus that would take me Victoria station to catch my train to Brighton station. From there I would walk down the hill towards St Peters Church (passing by Real Patisserie , or more often than not, stopping in to pick up a raspberry friande or a cheese twist or their lovely sour dough bread, or all of the above) then another wait for a bus to the University of Brighton Moulsecoomb campus. This happened twice a week, every Wednesday and Friday.
My journey was a long one, over two hours to get from house door to class room door. I wouldn’t say I relished the journey, but my heart always gladdened when I arrived i Brighton, the air is cleaner and fresher, and the skies seem wider. I love London, but it’s refreshes the spirit to be elsewhere sometimes.
Arriving at Brighton wasn’t the only peak/perk of the journey trough though, I did enjoy the journey on the number 38 bus itself: weaving so early in the morning from Islington through Bloomsbury, down Piccadilly, pass the grand houses, where I would peek through the large windows and spy plush couches and leatherbound tomes lined on walnut bookcases that make me think of Mycroft Holmes. Down along the edge of Green Park and it swings pass and around Wellington’s arch and Hyde Park Corner, and I would glimpse these intriguing structures.
From one aspect, they looked like crosses set at varying height; from another aspect, they were angled steel shards embeded deep into the green hills, as if Zeus had thrown down lightning bolts to pierce the earth.
Even before I looked it up online, I knew it to be a memorial for those lost at war. One day (or 2nd January 2012 if I am to be precise) I decided to take a closer look.
Being up close revealed more facets of this striking memorial.
Each freestanding piece (Wikipedia tells me they are called ‘standards’) is uniquely decorated. You can run your hands over the embossed fern that represent New Zealand, admire a metal bird or the carving of a fish, or read the inscriptions and take that moment to reflect.
The Wikipedia entry details some of the criticisms levelled agains the memorial. “Bristlingly unlovely” is how a critic described it.
For me however, it is a fitting memorial for the wars and the dead. From afar, it is brutal and stark, a bombardment that scars the green hills. Up close, as you walk amongst the sculptures, a story unfolds.