Skip to main content

The Streets of London: Part I

It’s clear now that I packed badly.



I should have listened to everyone. It would have cost less to ship the books than to carry them; and with much less hassle. I had to pay for extra baggage on the flight to London via Iceland. Sadly, I saw nothing of Iceland but the dawn above Reykavik in the distance. When I got to London, harassed with the umbrella and violin and computer and hand luggage, seeing that there was no possibility of physically moving with three additional (heavy suitcases), I ran into a storage facility, which wrapped the bags and stored them for two days. And – of course – the bags were wrapped before it was distractedly remembered that my credit card and other important papers were inside. So they had to be unwrapped and wrapped up again, and charged twice for the pleasure.

Then it was on the tube to central London, but not before I went to the wrong exit. I tried to load the Oyster card Autumn was so kind to give me, but in the rush at the machine, ended up paying twice as much as I should be a ticket on the Piccadilly Line to the Russell Square station where I was “to alight” for the hostel in Bloomsbury.

The streets around the hostel, which is on Tavistock road, are small and cobbled and English. It was raining lightly, the telephone boxes were red, there were accents of every sort. We won’t talk about the hostel. It was wonderfully situated, but gaudy in electric blue and yellow, overrun with Australian girls on their gap-year, and Euro pop. This may sound exotic, but it was tiring and I would’ve paid for a conversation with a friend.




Because I had a zone 1-6 day pass I took the tube to Leicester Square, with every intent of finding the bookshops on Charing Cross Road. I found two antiquarian bookshops and left them quickly in search of more but didn’t find any. I got very quickly lost walking through the West End, the theatre district and Convent Garden.



When I came upon Covent Garden I thought my heart would jump out of my throat – so many people in rain jackets and umbrellas, out for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon, the picturesque buildings, the thoughts of Pepys (there was a sign saying that he may have watched a Punch and Judy show there), the cobbled streets, voices and babble and languages and dialects, the stray sentences that jump out of the hubbub in a counter-puntal cacophony; the movement – of buses and trains and pedestrians and cyclists and prams.

Then I was lost trying to find Trafalgar Square, but I found it eventually. The grandness of the monuments and large national buildings. I stood in awe and satisfaction until a homeless man vomited near my feet to the general applause of his friends. I popped into the National Gallery fifteen minutes before it closed (managed to see mostly Dutch masters), and then got lost meandering over to Westminster Abbey and Parliament before turning back home for dinner at a pub where I ate by myself very conspicuously, trying hard not to be so conspicuous.

Comments

Jessica said…
1 week ago today I was unable to focus in textiles class due to late night rambling with you and now you are so far away and I'm as sober as a judge. Life can deal such a dirty hand, sometimes.

I hope you're able to keep up with your blog. I may finally be getting what others see in blogs, albeit only in a 'friends first, blogger second' capacity.

Jessica
kjz said…
love the details...hope things work out a bit better!
Thanks for your comments! Jessica - please keep in touch. If you ever start a blog with your artsy projects (which, by the way, you owe me a sheep!), let me know. And don't forget to save for your visit...
And Kevin, keep me in the loop, and let me know where you and Cassie end up going.

Popular posts from this blog

More Moomins

A friend once said that the thing she loved about Japan was that the Japanese loved every season, and made a great effort to celebrate holidays and seasons with specific rituals. As a person who enjoys holidays, and who finds meaning participating in the ritual of the Christian year, I feel a kinship with the Japanese. As humans, we respond to the larger, uncontrollable mysteries of life with stories, with food, with a renewed sense of connection to each other and to the world around us.

It is easy, with the early darkness and the frost on our windshields and the necessity of coats and thicker socks, to complain about the dying of the year and the coming of winter.

Here is a must-read this time of year: Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November. Where her other Moomin books have been characterized by happy bohemianism and quirky, midsummer adventures, this book is not afraid to deal with the stark and empty season that comes once a year.

It is raining steadily upon the tall dark trees. D…

Blast-beruffled plumes

I’ve returned to Minnesota to find it transformed into a Brueghel painting.



Our hunters are gone north or even south, wherever there are more deer. This has been a bad year for deer, threatened by the cold of last year’s polar vortex and the high population of coyotes, which now carry a bounty on their heads.

So, while it’s still autumn in England (I’ve been assured), winter has come. The nights are long, the wreaths are out. I’ve been reading restlessly – Robert Walser and GB Shaw. But some nights, Thomas Hardy feels just right for November melancholia. Here’s ‘A Darkling Thrush’:

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
Th…

Cassandra at the Wedding - Dorothy Baker

The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self.

Cassandra Edwards, named for the doomed wailer at the gates of Troy, is a student at Berkley, an “Existentialist-Zen-Marxist, Freudian branch. Deviation, rather.” The reader is fully aware from the beginning that Cassandra feels antagonistically about the wedding – she anticipates duties of “tak[ing] over the bouquet while [Judith] received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to receive it…” She purposefully gets the groom’s name wrong. She plans to stage a “last-minute rescue.”

The isolated family ranch the Edwards family as a self-sufficient unit – emotionally and intellectually. Her alcoholic father, a retired skeptical philosopher who act…