It was September... I was 16... My parents had divorced, my mother had left us all, and my dad had been diagnosed with cancer. From then onwards, he became a completely different person, as if his days were numbered and he wanted to do all that he had never been able to do, offer all that he had not yet offered. My father was one of these rare people who knew me by heart, every inch and every crack of me. In December that same year, he took us — my brother and myself — to London. It was our first time in the British capital. We were tourists, exploring some of the most iconic areas of the city. After that intense three-day trip, we came back to London a few times, and loved it more following every visit — so much so I decided I’d come back on my own some day, after graduating from university.
Some day soon became today.
I hadn’t come back here since my dad passed away… He used to say: ‘On est bien là’, which is French for ‘It’s nice over here’. Here was the South Bank, or more specifically the ‘relaxing and peaceful’ stroll along the river Thames, as he used to describe it, the roughly two-hour walk from Embankment to Tower Bridge. He enjoyed this place and its atmosphere just like a child enjoys Christmas. The South Bank had always been a must-do for us — every time we crossed the Channel and reached the shores of Great Britain. Every time, we would follow the route of the Jubilee Walkway, going through central London and developed for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. We would be our traveller selves, mixing with the Londoners and meeting with the immensity of London’s multiculturalism.
Today, I have become a part of this huge ethnic mosaic of foreign students and professionals, come to the European version of New York. But I don’t experience the South Bank the way I used to. It isn’t any less good. It simply is different.
Coming back for a stroll along the Thames without my dad was strange. Not any less good. Just different. On that day, I met up with my friend and photographer, Tom, for a walk along the river and a talk about photography, among other things. Since my dad passed away last October, Tom has been one of these few friends to help me move forward. I was re-experiencing the past every time I came back to familiar places, such as the South Bank. But he has been one of these people to give me a fresh experience of it.