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London II

Big city closing in


The Millennium Bridge

View towards the Shard

View towards the Shard

The Millennium Bridge across the Thames has only a few of these ‘love padlocks’ attached to it. This one caught my eye. From parents to a lost daughter.

For more padlocks on Helsinki’s Bridge of Love, click here.

S is for Southbank

Taken standing on the bank of the Thames at low tide. There’s something rather marvellous about these ten foot high letters being submerged at high tide and surviving time after time to tell the tale.

On another note, after my fossicking amongst the detritus washed up on the Thames beach, I am still wondering if I have contracted Weil’s disease as a consequence. Call me a catastrophist if you wish…

south bank

I’ll photograph some of the finds for tomorrow.

Found in London

On a bin outside the Tate Modern (which I now find does a very nice carrot cake).
I didn’t try the banana variety.
No giraffes.


Clarke/Lake Station on the Blue Line, Chicago

I could talk about the engineering of the rail transport in Chicago: how some of it is elevated and some of it is subterranean. How underground you could be anywhere, how above ground you can only be where you are. I am not going to talk about it though, because there’s nothing to say, not really.

I could mention how the weathered wooden platforms on the elevated sections remind me of Baltimore by Nina Simone and how I am always afflicted with a desire to photo the treads and risers on the staircases, both here and abroad. I could mention those things, but it might make me seem weird, so I won’t.

Public transport by train makes me think about my Grandpa and the red Central line on the London Underground. It makes me think of being gently rattled out of Leyton, after waiting for a train for Epping, or a journey in the opposite direction, Going Underground at Stratford on the way to Bethnal Green.

In Chicago you can go to Harlem and California on the Blue Line; in London, Mile End and Holborn on the Red. Both lines intersect with those of a different colour, travelling in different directions. In London I spoke to Americans returning to Atlanta, in Chicago I spoke to a black man about Marcus Garvey; all of them strangers, me the most. Taking a city train is a meditation, with some psychedelia thrown in, when you open your eyes.

Or maybe that’s just me. Like I said, I could talk about it, but I won’t.


The last 48 hours

Have been a bit like this






What to make of that, nobody knows.

Another car journey (and a Talking Head)

A car journey taken by someone else, who also wrote about it, also yesterday, as did I.

The difference between the two accounts was marked: one a sweet, contemplative meditation on the beauty of the landscapes and the art of the audio book, the other (mine) a supercharged rant about everything, really.  I can, I have, driven like the former writer, but these days that state seems like a different person to me.  Every journey becomes an epic in my mind and that, I suppose, is where the trouble lies.  For years, it has been a well-known fact that I have a tempestuous nature, something that has been oppressed, suppressed, medicated and subjugated, but here’s the thing, whatever is done to it: it won’t go away.

It will for a while which is fine, it leaves me to Get On, but sure enough eventually, like the many-headed Hydra, it rumbles into action leaving me trailing, dazed and confused, stumbling in its wake.  It is not, of itself, a bad thing.  It is the management of it that can be a full-time job.  It is like keeping a unruly dog on a tight lead (I have an unruly dog and that is probably a better analogy than a Hydra, but I know some who would err towards the monster), you cannot let down your guard.  I have learned, the hard way, do not loosen the leash.  And then there is the place between waking and consciousness where you have to and then, oh boy, does it come out to play.

I sleep but only by necessity and by forcing myself to ignore the unruly one’s many calls to action.  It whispers in my ear – do this, do that, not that, not this.  See this, here this one, this is THE thing.  Quick write notes, take this down, do not forget it, quick, quick, quick!  Last night it became convinced that each building has a sound (actually, I think that’s one worth thinking about) and it became specifically concerned with The Shard in London and the vibrational sound that it might have.  And then because it really is a Hydra, it became certain that there was a symphony of the the River Thames urbanscape waiting to be written, by me, at bedtime.  It really does take some convincing that this is not the time, nor the place, and maybe not even the right person to be telling.

The trouble is that some of the things it comes up with are interesting and drag me along.  This was how I discovered this piece by David Byrne, of Talking Heads.  It’s a South Bank soundscape, taking in some of the things that were preoccupying me last night and some that weren’t: Southwark Cathedral organ, Spitalfields market, for example.  He also has a project where he plays buildings; that’s not quite what my unruly beast had in mind, but I am going with it, for now.

A flock of light bulbs

I saw these illuminations taking off on London’s South Bank, close to Gabriel’s Wharf. That place takes me back about twenty years no problem at all. It wasn’t nearly so popular back then. I see a lot of trapped people when I go to London these days. I like to think this lot are taking flight to somewhere way beyond all that; I especially want to imagine wherever they are off to knocks over the rainbow into a cocked hat. Over the rainbow? Meh.

Unremarked in daylight

These silver birches are outside the Tate Modern in London, on the south bank of the River Thames.

When I have visited in the daylight I have seen them, but they are unremarkable. An evening visit recently showed them in a whole new light, literally. Unfortunately my camera couldn’t, or wouldn’t, capture the ground level purple strobe that criss-crossed through the trees.

Funny how things can be transformed in the dark. In nature the results can be quite beautiful, in the human mind it can be just the time when the cold, clammy monsters of anxiety and dread come knocking, catching a somnolent person unawares.

Given the choice, I’d take the silver birches every time.

Walk a mile in these shoes?

Dear David Cameron

Instead of holidaying in Tuscany, imagine your children sleeping next to this mould in a flat in inner-city London.

Someone's home: London 2011

Instead of having Michelle Obama round for coffee on the sofa in your kitchen, why not knock on this door and ask for a cuppa and a chat.

Someone's home: London 2011

Just imagine living with this mould in your house everyday. How’s it going to make you feel – happy, healthy, hopeful? I lived with mould like this in a flat once. It made the walls crumble and the windows rot. It made the ceiling black. It turns your freshly laundered clothes mouldy and it infests your baby’s push chair and cot. Think about it for a moment and sing along with Elvis (via songwriter Joe South).

Someone's home: London 2011

If I could be you, if you could be me
For just one hour, if we could find a way
To get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes
Instead your own ego I believe you’d be
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes

Now if we spend the day
Throwin’ stones at one another
‘Cause I don’t think, ’cause I don’t think
Or wear my hair the same way you do
Well, I may be common people
But I’m your brother
And when you strike out
You’re tryin’ to hurt me
It’s hurtin’ you, Lord HAVE mercy

Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes

Now there are people on reservations
And out in the ghetto
And brother there, but, for the grace of God
Go you and I,
If I only had wings of a little angel
Don’t you know, I’d fly
To the top of a mountain
And then I’d cry, cry, cry

Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes