My Mother’s Voice

Alzheimer’s being the conniving thieving bitch that  it is, my mother wasn’t herself in the final years of her life. The  woman I visited in the Alzheimer’s special care unit was a stranger wearing my mother’s skin but not much else, like the invasion of the body snatchers had taken place, month after month beneath the surface, until one day we looked and the woman we knew was gone, replaced by some alien being. An imposter. Intruder alert. Intruder alert. She died back in 2012. Don’t worry; I won’t be getting maudlin on you.  My real mother–not that stranger in a wheel chair, head nodding on her shoulder–is who I want to think about today.  My real mother —Enid Maude Good nee Hayden, a prim, old-fashioned name, perhaps the only thing about her I didn’t love— was British-born and had a lovely London lilt to her voice her whole life even though she left England in the mid-1950’s. I suppose at thirty, her vocal patterns were already frozen in place.  Sounding like a cross between

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Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 49: The Marble Arch (RIP Leonard Cohen)

The Marble Arch via

If it's Friday we must be back in London. Every Friday I take a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide & my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings We're currently following the Central Line. Here are the previous days. This is Day 49.

We ended our virtual walk a couple of weeks ago at the Marble Arch, the second time on this cross-city trek we’ve had it in our sights. This week, with the passing Leonard Cohen, it’s time to stop and pay our respects, the lyrics of Cohen’s song Hallelujah—some of the most discussed (and changed) lyrics ever written— echoing in our ears. 

Am I going to try to analyze Cohen’s lyrics? No, I’m not. That’s been done to death: biblical references tied up with love and sexuality, spirituality, the glory of love, its ultimate failure. Yet in the end, worth it, because it’s all we’ve got. It’s a glorious song that strikes deep chords within us all.

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord 
That David played, and it pleased the Lord 
But you don't really care for music, do you? 
It goes like this 
The fourth, the fifth 
The minor fall, the major lift 
The baffled king composing Hallelujah 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof 
You saw her bathing on the roof 
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you 
She tied you 
To a kitchen chair 
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair 
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah 

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before 
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor 
I used to live alone before I knew you. 
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch 
Love is not a victory march 
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah 

There was a time you let me know 
What’s really going on below 
But now you never show it to me, do you? 
And remember when I moved in you 
The holy dove was moving too 
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah 

I did my best, it wasn’t much 
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch 
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you 
And even though It all went wrong 
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song 
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah 

As to the actual Marble Arch ...

The 19th century landmark was designed by acclaimed British architect John Nash in 1827. Nash modeled the Marble Arch on Rome’s Arch of Constantine, dating to the fourth century. Featuring Corinthian columns and three arches—one large central arch and another on either side—the arch is faced with white marble and topped with sculpted relief panels representing England, Scotland, and Ireland. Initially meant to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace; standing near the site the central projection of the palace containing the balcony. The arch proved too small for the royal coaches to pass through and was moved to this location in 1851, hence its incongruous location on a traffic island where Park Lane and Oxford Street meet the Edgeware Road. 

Once upon a time only members of the Royal Family and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery were permitted to pass through the arch—which apparently still happens in ceremonial processions—anyone can pass through the arch these days. 

What are the flags that fly at the Marble Arch? These days they are usually the flags of the European Commonwealth. What did Cohen mean by the 

“I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch 
Love is not a victory march 
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah’’

That love is a dangerous thing to gloat over, that it’s fleeting? You tell me!

There are many versions of Hallelujah and with Cohen's death, there will be many more. Here’s his, or one of his anyway. Cohen, like many others, often changed the lyrics.
Thank you Leonard Cohen, for touching us in deep and profound ways. Hallelujah.

Next week we'll get back on track with a trek from the Marble Arch to Chancery Lane.

Linking up with Joy’s book blog celebrating 
British Isles Friday.


  1. I learn so much from the British Friday posts. I had no idea the history of the marble arches. Thanks for the videoclip ofLeonard Cohen, I love that song. He will be missed.

  2. I thought the Marble Arch was in a weird spot -- good to know why!

    I always interpreted the marble arch verse that gloating about a relationship is probably a sure sign that it isn't really love.


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