She is scooting on the South Bank, her four years
sailing without mishap through the crowds –
multi-national, multi-ethnic, mixed race
– like a skilled UN negotiator.
We stop – her choice – at the Galloper.
She rides sedately, grinning, on a painted
wooden horse. We stop again – our choice –
to watch an Australian with a travelled
face and lived-in voice reprise Houdini’s
cabinet trick. She is unimpressed
but enjoys the fifty metre sand pit
beyond the BFI. At the Tate,
she watches a brief video – over
and over – of Henri Matisse wielding
his draper’s scissors like a pen or brush.
(Later, she will cut us out of paper –
parents, grandparents, herself – and paint us
as cats). We leave for Chinatown and Dim Sum.
Dusk is settling in Trafalgar Square
as she eyes the forbidden pools. ‘Eng-er-lond,
Eng-er-lond,’ chant some youths from a lion’s plinth.
It is the World Cup’s first match at 10.00.
We cross to South Africa House where
a three piece band – drums, lead and bas guitar –
is playing ‘Money for Nothing’. She dances,
a Chinese tourist laughs and a rough sleeper
wakes from his pitch beneath a plane tree
and salutes us all with an empty bottle.
On holiday in Crete, à propos of
nothing, pleased with herself, she uttered
her first simile, ‘Sink like guitar.’
I think of that as we cross the river,
to return to our hotel near Waterloo,
and see the shimmering lights – and think of
Eliot’s ‘I had not thought death had undone
so many’ and Spenser’s ‘Sweet Thames, run softly
till I end my song!’ and feel the warmth of
love and mortality, the themes of
this harmonious day.