The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble

MOVING AWAY.................MOVING OUT.........

She moved to the dark, dirty, menacing area of London. London, one of the biggest cities in the world.
She moved to the dark, dirty, menacing area of London. London, one of the biggest cities in the world.
Her first solitary months of her new London life. She wanted to find a friend, that she would not have known  in her former life.
Her first solitary months of her new London life. She wanted to find a friend, that she would not have known in her former life.
She moved to London  to avoid the demands  and pity of those people she used to know 'once upon a time'.
She moved to London to avoid the demands and pity of those people she used to know 'once upon a time'.
ife has become sparse  in her new life, but she felt a relief in being so reduced.
ife has become sparse in her new life, but she felt a relief in being so reduced.
We accumulate too many objects as we grow older. She has some hope  that by striping most of hers away, she might enter a new dimension. She felt fear and she felt hope.
We accumulate too many objects as we grow older. She has some hope that by striping most of hers away, she might enter a new dimension. She felt fear and she felt hope.
She settled down  in her new flat. She has done so many things for the first time in the last year or two, like eating a vegetable samosa in the street on the way back from tube.
She settled down in her new flat. She has done so many things for the first time in the last year or two, like eating a vegetable samosa in the street on the way back from tube.
She has also been into a pub, on her own, she broke the rules. She looks around and thinks of many people of the earth...
She has also been into a pub, on her own, she broke the rules. She looks around and thinks of many people of the earth...
She realizes  now that all her life she has been an unthinking racist...
She realizes now that all her life she has been an unthinking racist...
and that she is one  still she simply cannot get used to all these foreigners on London streets.
and that she is one still she simply cannot get used to all these foreigners on London streets.
The elegant dark man with dreadlocks who lives under the bridge spoke to her: "Good evening, Ma'am,  and how are you today?"
The elegant dark man with dreadlocks who lives under the bridge spoke to her: "Good evening, Ma'am, and how are you today?"
She said, she was fine and that she hoped he was comfortable on his foam bedding on the filthy pavement.
She said, she was fine and that she hoped he was comfortable on his foam bedding on the filthy pavement.
The surface of the pavement was shocking particularly disgusting under this part of bridge...
The surface of the pavement was shocking particularly disgusting under this part of bridge...
where the pidgeon roost and strange, large items of rubbish are deliberately dumped.
where the pidgeon roost and strange, large items of rubbish are deliberately dumped.
She used to be afraid to pass this man, and she would walk by on the other side.
She used to be afraid to pass this man, and she would walk by on the other side.
She met a crying girl on the corner of the street. She was like a poor fledging, a child really.
She met a crying girl on the corner of the street. She was like a poor fledging, a child really.
The girl has just had a row with her boyfriend, in one corner of the beautiful London park.
The girl has just had a row with her boyfriend, in one corner of the beautiful London park.
Rows can hurt, but they don't kill you. We can survive  scraps of love...
Rows can hurt, but they don't kill you. We can survive scraps of love...
Rows can hurt, but they don't kill you. We are surrounded by these miseries. London is suffused with grief.
Rows can hurt, but they don't kill you. We are surrounded by these miseries. London is suffused with grief.
She goes for a short walk by the canal and join the other no-hopers, killing time before time kills them.
She goes for a short walk by the canal and join the other no-hopers, killing time before time kills them.
Plodding along She is no longer a passive victim of her fate. That is her proper place. That is her destiny.
Plodding along She is no longer a passive victim of her fate. That is her proper place. That is her destiny.
She can't pretend that she is young any more, so what is she, after all?
She can't pretend that she is young any more, so what is she, after all?
It may well be true that the human body wasn't designed to live as long as it now does.
It may well be true that the human body wasn't designed to live as long as it now does.
The ingenuity of the human mind and spirit are the cause of this longevity.
The ingenuity of the human mind and spirit are the cause of this longevity.
Many-layered London town, this time, she has all the time in the world and she takes it all in.
Many-layered London town, this time, she has all the time in the world and she takes it all in.
Portrait of London today, the solitary life  and loneliness lost in the hustle and bustle of its crowd...
Portrait of London today, the solitary life and loneliness lost in the hustle and bustle of its crowd...
Searching for the meaning of the life, dreaming  of friendship and the sudden transformation only fate can bring.
Searching for the meaning of the life, dreaming of friendship and the sudden transformation only fate can bring.
Can you tell the muggers from the mad? Walking on the bridge, hiding under the motorway, among the old mattresses and the broken bottles...
Can you tell the muggers from the mad? Walking on the bridge, hiding under the motorway, among the old mattresses and the broken bottles...
People, who lurk near Thames river banks.
People, who lurk near Thames river banks.
It was one of those dullest evening, the first evening  of the rest of her new life.
It was one of those dullest evening, the first evening of the rest of her new life.
She told herself that she would cross off each day as it comes.
She told herself that she would cross off each day as it comes.
She is one of the muggers, she is mad just like others, lost in the crowd, she runs  in order to stand still.
She is one of the muggers, she is mad just like others, lost in the crowd, she runs in order to stand still.

Recently betrayed, divorced and rejected...




Meet ladylike Candida
with feminine
lace detailing
in soft pinks and dusky blues,
in part one of her diary.
She turns 50 soon
and thinks
of the seedless grapes,
sour
when you taste them.
Her grandparents
were
brought up in that faith,
that
temptation is sin.
She inherited their sense of guilt.



She has never lived
in the heart
of a big city before.
Looking from her tiny flat
at a spectacular London view
of motorway
and railway
and distant council high-rise,
she watches
quietly,
patiently
never changing morning sky,
day after day,
with dim and polluted sunrise,
waiting for a deadly grey
to change
to sunset of orange, purple, yellow
and bloody red.


Although the stars are often obscured,
Candida can see the constellation
of the seven sisters
and wonders,
if true change can still happen
at her age…

Passing a sad and browning
Christmas tree
on her first walk
around her new estate
abandoned,
just like her,
a year or two back.

“Will it outlast my own sojourn?”
She keeps asking herself.

Once upon a time,
she lived in the centre
of England’s first Christian community
in a house of the family of Earl Grey fame.
She drank the bergamot-scented brew,
scoffed scones with the creamy
works and wander
amid wild and lovely grounds.
It seems so empty,
so pretentious now.


Once upon a time,
she was married
to a very good looking Englishman,
correct in every way,
when love has perished,
he has become the most self-satisfied
and self-serving hypocrite in England.

Once upon a time,
she was three times a mother,
and could rule over small lives.
Her three daughters:
Haughty first born,
thinks
Candida drove her husband
into adulterly.
The second born
and the least favoured,
has removed herself from the family
and the youngest one
is full of
‘Darling this and Darling that’
towards her new stepmother.
Candida finds such manners false.


Once upon a time,
she allowed two women
to befriend her,
she has always been a passive person,
so different to Julia from her school days,
who came from somewhere
and was already set on traveling elsewhere.
Julia’s England was a society of citizens
who are upright and self-sufficient,
energetic, adventurous, independent-minded,
loyal to friends and robust against enemies.

Candida has grown accustomed to looking
to her ex-husband for her welfare,
the idea of looking out for herself
seems impossible and frightening.


Fat and noisy Sally visits her,
women’s lives,
how they entwine about one another
and strangle one another.
Sally, like Julia,
likes talking about sex,
although by her own account,
she had no experience of it.
Seeing Candida’s discomfort, she laughs:
“If you just set out to be liked,
you would be prepared to compromise
on anything at any time,
and you would achieve nothing,
not even a good laugh.”


She looks back on her arrival in this strange place.


Pigeon dirt, dog dirt, cat dirt
and human dirt,
in this trap is her freedom
there is no profit in self doubt
and too late for regret and remorse.
Now she lives trapped
beneath
an enclosing gloomy and grey
London’s canopy.

The only real security is the security of the opportunity.
Who might she befriend on crowded London’s streets?
People are always banging irritable
and sometimes angrily into one another.
Londoners are not patient people,
they don’t speak to one another much.
is there anyone to meet?


Anais is her first exotic girlfriend
in London,

she has known riches in her time
and she is still by temperament a big spender.
Anais believes that there is creativity in all.
No one should feel guilty about wealth
or being exceptional, but work hard
and exercise humility.”

She bursts out laughing from her carmine lips
and moves lustrously in her dress
in splashes of mango and canary.

All inhabitants in Candida’s building
are foreigners,
they don’t even look at one another
as they pass on the stairs.
There is something liberating about this total indifference.


Mrs Jerrold is in her mid-eighties
and lives in a posh part of the London,
in an overcrowded bohemian little nest.
She looks as though she is looking
into the thereafter.
Perhaps she spends too much time
thinking about the long-dead.
She caught Candida’s glance
and leapt into the present.
To wear your heart on your sleeve
isn’t a very good plan,
you should wear it inside,
where it functions best.


Her third London’s friend,
Cynthia, takes her breath away.

Candida never really had a job
in her real life,
but Cynthia seem to have had dozens
lined up for her.
She has a restless energy,
no skills and isn’t good with money.
She plays life as it comes
and learns as she goes.
I look out at the world with confidence,
I am used to take responsibility
for myself,
and I am allergic to the culture
of dependency.”

Cynthia waves at her and rush
to another evening class.
“Cynthia is right,”
Candida smiles to herself:
There is a lasting pleasure in the exercise of the mind.”


In the part two in her diary,
they sail homewards
across the Mediterranean Sea,
from Tunis to Italy,
Candida and her friends,
setting off bravely,
together,
as good companions.
“Do she still have it in her to find some happiness?”
She asks in her last entry before the voyage starts.

“That magical land awaits you now.”
They hear the voice of Valeria,
their dusky and musky guide,

that is a fine counterblast
to the pallid English looks of theirs.
These women keep faith with the past,
they keep faith with myth and history.
The seven sisters see the sights.
“How can anyone bear to live in the dark damp streets of London,
beneath an evil sky?”
The travelers of the third age cry out loud.
They gaze, wander and enjoy their free gift of aftertime.


They come across palaces
long since tumbles into ruins.
They walk
barefoot
long miles on deserted beach.
“The ocean is just like life itself,
so difficult to control.”
Candida thinks,
submerging herself
cautiously
into gentle waves:
“So much wind,
so much unpredictability
with swell and tides..”

She gets a phone call from home,
her daughter is in hospital.
Suddenly Candida looks
dim and miserable,
the dimmest of the stars.
At her age and living in solitude,
she is so thinly connected to life.


In part three in her diary,
love for her daughter
has taken her
by the throat
and forced her heart
upwards
in chaos
in fear
of falling
in long
snatching
tides.

She thought
for a moment
that she had died.
She thought
she had passed
from life to death
and into eternal time.


As the ghost of the precious mother
she writes her diary
in her daughter’s tongue.

She has only ever wanted
to by taken by surprise,
to get to where she doesn’t know herself,
to become ‘her no more’.
Self pity is a seductive emotion,
Candida suddenly realizes.


In the last part of her diary,
Candida knows,
she is condemned
to life,
to wearing out her life.
She tries to mend
the gap that had opened up
between herself and her daughter.
She has been lying to herself,
at quite a deep level,
for most of her life.
She must learn to grow old
before she dies.

Daring to fail,
letting go,
listening to her sisters' advice:
You are Londoner now,
you don’t succeed
just
by having the right ideas.
You need the confidence
to defend those ideas,
and see them through.
Life is not always about compromise.”

Margaret Drabble

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Nice work Beata!! Peace!! Tom


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

The lovely photographs of London took me back to my time there -- wonderful. Thanks. Lynda


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thanks my dear loyal followers, happy that I haven't disapoint you with my latest addition:)


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

What a wonderful story, I felt the pace of the city and the separation of self from the past and moving forward. I loved London when I visited way back in 1968..so long ago and enjoyed every second I was there. Thank you for sharing this great piece of work, I must read more. Peace and hugs


H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 5 years ago from Guwahati, India

Every story, becoming so sweet by the nice poetical sound is a beauty of expression.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

What a pleasure to read your comments my two loyal followers, it is another treat under my Christmas tree:)...love and peace from Beata


Brinafr3sh profile image

Brinafr3sh 5 years ago from West Coast, United States

Cool writing, I agree the act of temptation is sin. (vote up)


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Temptation is all around us, we just have to focus what is important in our lives and don't let the temptation to stir us away from our path...to stay truthful to yourself is the key, so you can look in a mirror and be happy what you see and be comfortable in your skin:)...all the best to you Brinafr3sh

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working