Monday, 28 June 2021

'This place reminds him of the place that once was' by Maria Thomas

The river runs red, crimson, bloody and it takes him right back to that dreadful night when a different river, a wider, angrier river, ran a terrible red; the red of death and persecution and massacre.  The river ran red, and the life he had known ended, as his kin were wiped out, when he escaped into darkness and fled the city of his birth.  A city he had thought gracious and refined and cultured, that mutated into a chimera of violence and horror, pungent with decay and putrefaction. The river ran red.

This  river before him, this vivacious, bubbling, fast-flowing brook, this river runs red, right through to that great, stinking, serpentine, majestic watercourse, Old Father Thames himself.  And it is this river, the Wandle, that provides him with a kind of rebirth, a purging of the violence of his past, and gives him the purity of a future.

Like many Huguenot’s he came to Wandsworth to settle in a land that might allow him to curl his roots into the earth, and soar upwards, outwards, along a family tree-line like the sycamores that sit on the river's sturdy banks.  Here he can find employment as a weaver, making the luxurious felt that the Huguenot’s are famous for, the cloth that makes the mitres of his enemies, the cloth that makes the river run red.

This red that is neither peaceful, nor tolerant, but might allow him to live the rest of his days in peaceful tolerance, amongst his own, traumatised, hopeful countrymen; might allow them to build the bones of a community that supports their ambitions for the sweet bird of peace and the ancestry of the sycamore.

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