Thursday, March 20, 2008

London, Sunday morning

Notes from my laptop, written after failing to get online.
Think of London, a small city
It's dark, dark in the daytime
People sleep, sleep in the daytime
If they want to, if they want to
Talking Heads, "Cities"
Look, Jane, look: see David Byrne talking through his hat. The last adjective one might with justice apply to London is "small." London is a monster, it's just too big, too dirty, too crowded — and far too expensive. It cost Oscar and I four pounds each to go by bus and Tube from his apartment near the Thames in West London to Oxford Circus for the party; coming home, it took us half an hour to find a taxi, and the quarter-hour ride cost thirty-seven pounds. And Birthday Boy cannot have paid less than 750 pounds for the (admittedly quite wonderful) dinner and wine for us all.

I am remembering both how much I enjoyed living here as a student, and how glad I was to escape fourteen years ago. The multiple nationalities and languages of London are a delight after the near-monoculture of Germany; the variety of skintones and languages on the Tube made me quite absurdly happy. The party was also such a mixture: BB's family is Belgian by parentage and lives in France, Switzerland and Holland, and he attended school in Geneva and university in London. I sat with two friends from Geneva days (an American living in Hong Kong and a Swiss-Italian), his Swiss-living sister and her Italian husband, and a relatively recent Russian friend from London; the common language was French rather than English, so we spoke that together.

This is the first time I've been here in a dozen years; many of the guests I have not seen in twenty-five years or more. Time has not treated us all kindly. Oscar has put on the twenty kilos that BB lost along with much of his hair. His mother is still going strong: she is finishing a book to be published in 2009, her 88rd year.

Rain, cold winds, grey skies. Blah.

Walked in Richmond Park yesterday for a few hours, between the rains, talking about life and age and the attempt to make peace with oneself and one's ghosts. Oscar has had a hard time: a nervous breakdown leading to early retirement in his mid-forties, a serious depression since then from which he is only just emerging. The state of his apartment makes me think with shamed recognition of my own.

Today will be spent in bookstores and cafes, damn the weather.

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Blogger Lioness said...

Fascinating. I think I've read books with this sort of characters!

March 21, 2008 at 10:44:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Snark said...

I feel better about the fact that, in all likelihood, I'll never make it to London. For a long time I've thought that I want to live somewhere in Britain, or at least visit London sometime before I die. If somehow I could afford it, Kaye wouldn't go with me (she's said so), so what's the point?

Now that I'm feeling like I have one foot in the grave (I'm 41, but was essentially retired due to disability at 37, I think it was), I just want privacy and stars. The city lights block out the stars, and I have screaming kids everywhere. I also have to play my music low and make sure no one can see me half-dressed as I roam about the house.

March 21, 2008 at 5:06:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous JoeInVegas said...

I always like big cities. Unfortunately they all are expensive.

March 21, 2008 at 5:32:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Pacian said...

I lived in London for a while.

I still have the debt.

March 21, 2008 at 10:49:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger said...

I adore London ... always have done, always will ... but i couldn't live there, not if you paid me in millions ... too crowded ... that's it ... all other sins i could live with but that feeling of being constantly buffeted by people and cars and noise ... but i do love it ... i'm going back in June for a month ... *happy sigh*

March 26, 2008 at 9:30:00 a.m. GMT+1  

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