Mandela walked this way


IF you walked down Lyme Street last week you would have seen a ‘to let’ sign (below, right) at the very spot Nelson Mandela stopped at in Camden Town ten years ago. If you’re short of a Mandela anecdote or two, rustle up your deposits, you could tell your friends that you live in a house which has a doorstep that Nelson Mandela once stood on. You’d get 20 likes on Facebook for that alone.

imageIt has been a week of sharing recollections of Mandela’s visits to London. Some have been proud tweets about the tiny glimpses people stole while waiting for him in Brixton, Haringey or Trafalgar Square. Others have been longer tales from self-congratulating veteran journalists who have almost invited us to look back on their own wonderful careers while assessing the former South African president’s life at the same time. Humble or pompous in the telling, it doesn’t really matter. Who would be miserly enough to skewer the excitement people felt from sharing the same air, even briefly, with the master of reconciliation and a true hero of the 20th century? 

My old colleague Joel Taylor, now at the Metro, and certainly not self-congratulatory, writes on his blog about how his mere presence in Camden Town in 2003, just the sight of him raising his arm, was enough to tingle spines. The crowd dance and cheered Mandela’s name, Joel writes, before explaining of his regret that he didn’t get former Mayor Nash Ali the mantelpiece picture he wanted. In the group photos you can see people who only had seconds in Mandela’s company that day but mark it down as one of their proudest life moments. No wonder they wanted to share them all over again, again and again, this week.

The scene in Lyme Street, a short road behind the canal where Mandela pulled back a little curtain to reveal a blue plaque for Joe Slovo and Ruth First, is almost like a mirage now. The pictures are vital, acting like pins, pricking us with reassurance that someone magical really did once walk this way. 

3 Comments on Mandela walked this way

  1. In all the clips this week have you seen one where a journalist asked Nelson Mandela a meaningful question which led to an answer we didn’t already know. Journalists felt so privileged and puffy to be in the same room as him, but anybody could’ve been asking the questions. Even the Spice Girls

    (We are talking about John Simpson, right?)


  2. Cllr Nasim Ali // December 10, 2013 at 11:52 am //

    I was privileged to have met Madiba, what a great man. We had a brief chat and I gave him a hug and this made me want to do more to tackle inequality and injustice. This man changed the world for people like me to have a better quality of life. He forgave those who hurt him and inspired billions around the world. We know that this world is not colour blind and as an Asian man with a white wife with mixed heritage children I have benefitted from the changes that have happened around the world because of people like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. My son Zac is so envious of my son Rio who was in my wife’s tummy when we met Mandela. Zac said to Rio that he will meet Obama, who is speaking at the Memorial event as I write this.

    RIP Nelson Mandela and thank you for everything you have done for me, my family and people all over the world!!!


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