Friday, April 16, 2010


I finished Edward Rutherford's London today. It is the kind of book that I love - telling the history of a place, through the events in the lives of families. I guess even though I did find the stories a little 'soap-opera-ish in parts, that's actually what history is filled with too ... our personal history. It was really interesting how much he wrote about the history of the Church in England.

Anyway, here's a little section which kind of sums up what I like about the book:
"Imagine", he had said, "a summer. At the end of it the leaves fall. They lie on the ground. They almost dissolve, you might say, but not quite. The next year the same thing happens again. And again. Thinned out, compressed, those leaves and all the other vegetation build up in layers, year after year. It's the natural process. Its organic. 

"Something similar happens with man, and especially in a city. Each year, each age, leaves something. It gets compressed, of course, it dissappears under the surface, but just a little of all that human life remains. A Roman tile, a coin, a clay pipe from Shakespeare's time. All left in place. When we dig down, we find it and we may put it on show. But don't think of it just as an object. Because that coin, that pipe belonged to someone: a person who lived, and loved, and looked out at the river and the skiy each day just like you and me. 

"So when we dig down into the earth under our feet, and find all that is left of that man or woman, I try to remember that what I'm seeing and handling is a huge and endless compression of lives. And sometimes in our work here [Muesuem], I feel as if we've somehow entered into that layer of compressed time, prised open that life, a single day even, with its morning and evening, and its blue sky and its horizon. We've open just one of the million and million of windows hidden in the ground."
 And how in the artefacts of each age we open windows into our shared history. I'm looking forward to reading Dublin, Ireland and New York.

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