The Whitehall Court stands proud against the lead-like sky. From a distance it seems straight out of a Disney fairytale, a suggestive handcrafted canvas rather than a real frame of the live film unfolding before my eyes from across the river, on Southbank. With its spires and turrets, it is an architectural jewel thrown amidst the modernist buildings strewn along the Thames. Massive and yet delicate, its black rooftop sheltered once the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6.
I walked along the Southbank shore maybe a hundred times, but only now I seem to notice the royal elegance Whitehall Court spreads around. It’s like all the other buildings are vassals to its grace, placed there with the sole purpose of enhancing its beauty. Across the river, behind me, the Southbank Centre is buzzing with people, art and books. The colourful events posters covering the centre’s walls contrast with the austerity and stillness of the castle across. On one side the British aristocracy, reminding of the Tudors times, on the other, the modern concrete buildings of a busy human hillock. Past and present embrace across the river, united by the futurist white spears of Waterloo Bridge. It dawns on me the perfection of it all.
Against the sluggish sky, the palace looks like torn from a Brothers Grimm’ story, foretelling of imminent things to come. And it doesn’t take long until the gates of heavens break loose and rain comes pouring down, vigorous but humorous, rushing everyone to find shelter in the Royal Festival Hall’s cafeteria. I watch the big raindrops wash down the people’s imaginary imprints off the ghostly white chairs on the terrace in front. Through the veil of dripping glass I gaze across the Thames to the Whitehall Court, cocooned in mist and steams of a long bygone past.