“I love the man that can grow brave by reflection” – Thomas Paine

I, Hardy in name, hardy in nature, a proud political reformer, servant to working men, craftsmen, stumble through London. A waft of diseased mud from low tide tries to hold onto me with afflicting memories, my lost progeny, six lost tots. I fly along Watling Street, up Ludgate Hill, drunk with hope. I, the shoemaker, shop owner, am politically sanctioned. I hold firmly ‘The Rights of Man’. I have natural rights, a right of action and my civil rights. Learned men write the books but I know we reason, we have ideas. This year, 1791, will mark history.

The Cathedral, shimmering through smog was built with white stone on the back of a tax on black coal. It was forged like us, for eternity and with fortitude, resurrected by us little men, not for profit but for the public good.

I gasp as I enter. Wren, God guided your hand. My mind wanders to the building’s heights and I face this vastness, imagining the weight of that baroque dome. I sit on a pew setting Paine’s book next to the bible. I feel light. I laugh loudly and clearly and its fire warms my throat like my first swig of illicit scotch. My voice thunders through the nave and I feel strength build. Listen, ghosts of Old St Paul – you whispering gossips, my religious duties consist of doing justice.

My back to distractions, towers overhead, I walk through the Portal and pause in the porch. I pull out my lucky charm; my cobbler’s nail. I scratch into the Portland mass the words which describe my mood: ‘I Leuch’: ‘I laughed’. I look down to my shoes feeling the pavement below my feet, then ahead in wonder to what will be man’s destiny.

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