High up on a bridge called Albert in the city of London lives a light bulb called Sid. And though every single night all the other light bulbs around him open their eyes and shine, Sid's eyes stay tightly shut. For Sid has a most unfortunate predicament for a lightbulb: he is afraid of heights.
He doesn't know why. He just knows the ground feels good and being far away from it does not.
“Oh please open your eyes and shine.” Plead the other light bulbs around him night after night.
"No." Says Sid.
"But why?" They cry.
"I might smash." Sid replies. Shaking ever so slightly.
And as every lightbulb will appreciate, smashing is a most terrible thing to do. So everytime Sid reminds them of this, they get lost in thought and forget to prod him any further.
Albert Bridge is so sad that one of his light bulbs doesn’t shine. For Albert is one of the most handsome bridges in London. His famous caramel pink arch and shining lights that sparkle like stars draw crowds from all over the city. Pigeons even fly from far away for no other reason then to sit and coo at him.
“Oh what will everyone think?” He asked his friend the Thames one morning. But she never replied, throwing him a swell instead.
“Oh Sid you’ve got to open your eyes and shine,” a little light bulb called Martha called up to Sid one night.
“I can’t, I can’t,” he replied. “Oh just take me back to my box. it was such a wonderful place to be."
“What was so wonderful about it?” asked Martha.
Sid paused to remember his beautiful brown box that he had lived in before Albert. A smile broke out across his face as he remembered his favourite feature: “It had edges.” He said.
“Oh, I see.” Martha replied, when the truth was she didn’t see at all. But not knowing what else to say she fell silent, leaving Sid to mull over his memories.
“Why don’t we sing him a song?” Suggested one cheerful light bulb later on.
“Yes!” Agreed all the other light bulbs who loved any chance to sing.
And this is the song they sung:
“Out on the streets of London town
There on the roads do people like to frown!
They’re so very busy,
Always looking down
But below and beyond
Is beauty untold.
Out on the streets of London town
Are people and animals
Of every shape and sound.
Some of them make us giggle
Some of them make us stare
Oh it’s pretty amazing
This wonderful London Town!”
The light bulbs ended up singing their song with such gusto that Frederick light bulb who lived on the lowest bough even popped his fuse and had to be replaced the following morning.
The next evening some of the light bulbs began to grumble.
“He’s a coward.” Whispered one.
“A drama queen,” said another.
Some light bulbs even began to mutter that they would be able to do Sid’s job far better – if only they were given the chance.
But they weren’t.
So Albert slunk into a glum mood that wouldn’t shift and his famous caramel pink arch took on a smudged grey quality so that the pigeons who used to come and coo at him stopped.
“Apparently,” said one pigeon to another, “Millennium bridge sparkles all the time.” So off they flew.
Now watching all of this from a tree on the edge of the park was a leaf called Delilah. Delilah had been watching the light bulbs and saw how hard they were trying. But she knew that it wasn’t what was needed. But if she was going to help, she needed to be quick: the days were getting colder and soon she would be leaving her home for a while and heading off to new lands. So Delilah reached out to the wind: "Will you help me?" She asked.
"Yes of course," said the wind. His appreciation for adventure immense.
So the next evening as the sun sunk towards the water and the light bulbs began to open their eyes, Delilah fluttered her edges in the way that she knew the wind liked so that he smiled and came near, lifting her from her branch to carry her across the sky like a ballerina on a floorless stage.
The other leaves watched transfixed as the wind lifted Delilah higher and higher to the highest point on Albert Bridge where he carried her past Sid with such a tenderness that Sid couldn’t help himself and his eyes opened in surprise:
What was that?
When the other light bulbs saw that Sid had opened his eyes they were so excited they called out to the little leaf: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” until their voices was an echo reverberating throughout the sky, as if the whole of London were sitting up and calling to the little leaf thankyouthankyouthankyou!
Sid never closed his eyes again.
In fact he is even known as a bit of a philosopher. Philosopher Sid. And is so popular that when dogs walk over Albert to take their humans for a walk in Battersea Park they walk as slowly as they can in the hope that they’ll hear philosopher Sid.
Yet despite his popularity, Sid’s philosophy has remained incredibly simple. In fact it’s made up of just one word. And though it’s a little word, Sid says it in a way that far bigger words dream of being said.
“Wow.” That is Sid’s word, his raindrop of a word as he looks out on the city of London, his home, and the world around him.
And the other light bulbs love to sing it at night as they shine, so that the cars driving over Albert beep it out to one another with such excitement that the birds flying above soar to the stars in the sky spreading the word far and wide, so that Sid’s little philosophy of wow has become known by many.
“Look at everyone!” Martha said in amazement one night – for all around them were sea gulls and pigeons, crows and starlings fluttering in the skies and sitting on the boughs of Albert and along the Embankment, with the trees blowing softly in the nights breeze as they stretched out their branches to make sure they could hear Philosopher Sid as clearly as possible for a talk he was due to give that night.
Everyone waited for Sid to start but instead Sid remained quiet for a moment, looking out in wonderment at the view around him.
And then very softly, a “wow” slipped from his lips and everyone seemed to slip into a moment of bliss quite unlike any felt before. No words needed.
Some moments later, Martha looked up.
“Where’s Sid?” She asked, looking around her.
No one knew: where does a light bulb go when they disappear?
“He was shining so brightly I had to close my eyes.” Said Frederick.
“Me too.” Said another light bulb.
“And me.” Said another.
“He’s gone.” Said Martha. “Sid’s gone away.”
A silence fell.
“Look at the sky!” Called out Frederick suddenly. Albert and the light bulbs and the animals and the birds and the river and the cars and even a few people peered up at the sky, squinting to see the something that appeared through the clouds.
“Maybe Sid has moved to live in the sky.” Suggested Frederick.
“Maybe,” said Martha as looked upwards, a longing for her friend in her chest.
Then slowly a silence spread out across the city. Loud voices and laughter mellowed to whispers and then to nothing at all. It was quite unlike anything any of the humans, or birds or other leaves had ever heard before. And yet something inside all of them beamed like a smile just in the way you do when you come to a place you never knew you missed.
A place not so far away after all.
And just as soon as the silence had appeared, London started to speak again, though this time with a voice quite different to before. As if something had changed.
“It’s like it’s become a little more wow,” said a young girl walking over Albert Bridge with her mother and their dog the next morning.
“Yes,” said the mother.
“Woof,” said the dog looking up at the bridge with a wink.
Of course this story does not finish here. It continues. As all do. The tatters of its end fluttering in the wind, floating away to attach themselves to new stories. Stories without ends and with beginnings that no one can remember.
For we don’t have to. Memory is forever and Sid exists in us all.