City of the Mind*

Photograph: St Bride’s, Fleet Street. The church was gutted by fire on the night of 29th December, 1940; its spire remained.

*1991 novel by Penelope Lively. From Chapter I:

“…But there are no new outbreaks now – the City is one single fire, from Old Street to Cannon Street, from Moorgate to Aldersgate, the flames jump now from one building to another, they need no bombs to feed them (though the bombs still come, he hears at this moment the great thud of an oil bomb, and the ground seems to lift beneath him). Above are huge incandescent clouds, choking orange smoke rolls all around, one building spouts flames that are green and blue, another has set free a flock of great black birds, charred sheets of paper that come flapping and dying down the street. The whole place crackles, spits and roars, elemental and unleashed; only the rhythmic throb of the pumps and the clanging fire bells are the faint and desperate reassurance of order, of sanity, of human control.

This is the worst yet…”

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