mercredi 25 mai 2011

With apologies to G.K. Chesterton...

Her sins they were forgiven her, or why do flowers run
Behind her, and the hedges all a-strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing ran from left to right and knew not which was which;
But the wild rose was above her when they found her in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us - we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton pier.

dimanche 22 mai 2011

Inside the map

In Mongolian, the word for west is the same as that for right, and the word for left is east. It’s as if this traditionally nomadic people, making their way and their way of life across steppe and desert, forest and mountain, are in fact inside the map, looking out. It suggests to me an enviable quality of rootedness in movement, of belonging on and shaping your own path.

I’ve more often felt on the outside of the map, staring stupidly in and trying to make sense of what I see. Over the past four years in particular, I’ve been a paid observer of the lives of others. Now, as the days fill up with time and my diary with the dates and times of planes, trains, hire cars, lunches and dinners, perhaps I am worming my way back into the map.
If I were to open my brightly-painted ger door one of these fine late-spring mornings on the recent map of Ellieland, I would see, rolling into the middle distance:

Vines aligned like contour lines between 15th century churches under a southern sun
The road curving through the woods of Gascony and opening onto avenues of plane trees

A frantic pre-dawn, pre-pedestrian search for the RER, unhelpfully off the map

The cobbles of the Louvre under the scudding wheels of a happily irreverent motorbike, the cable car to Montmartre, the retraced potted history of French monarchy since the Revolution
The lines of imagined rhododendron petals punctuating a Nepalese dance rehearsal in the 15e arrondissement

The ley line from blinking infant to smiling mother in Herblay, home of musketeers
The Piccadilly and the Metropolitan lines, converging on Thai food and catch-up

The cantering lights of a night-time taxi ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan
The gentle, sometimes circular, sometimes backward motion of a rowing boat on Central Park lake

…And the whole intersected by the criss-cross lines of affection, humour, interest, love and concern that tie us together.

mardi 10 mai 2011

Edible art

I want to eat the Guggenheim. It would be like one of those old-fashioned mints, a little chunky and dusted with icing sugar, that you crunch into to release the softer sweetness beneath. Except that to bite into the perfectly satisfying shape of the giant Guggenheim mint would be to unlock the vast array of equally satisfying, stimulating and/or beautiful works of art inside.
The right forms and colours in the right place, connecting with ideas we can make sense of, meet an almost physical need, filling a hole which must be the aesthetic equivalent of the ‘dessert stomach’. We gorged ourselves on ‘The Great Upheaval’ at the museum yesterday: delicious.

The invisible manicure of the market

There are 12,000 yellow cabs in New York, according to our guidebook – that’s one for every 667 people (which would be a squeeze). Curiously, on the basis of our highly scientific survey, there are approximately 540 nail bars on Manhattan island (one for every 7,556 women, to be gender-discriminatory), and about 200 psychics and fortune tellers (only one for every 40,000 people). Yet all of the cabs are full, and all the nail bars empty. So who’s palm-reading the invisible hand of the market…?

samedi 7 mai 2011

Hedgehog city

Manhattan bristles with bustle and beauty like a fat young hedgepig, basking in the sun and justifiably rather pleased with itself. The spines of a hundred beautiful Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings rear up into the blue, alongside the spires and towers of synagogues, churches and cathedral and the steel-and-glass sinews of less ancient gods. Through and between them rush the ant people, jogging or jaywalking, coffee beaker in hand and mobile phone clasped to one ear as they close deals, juggle appointments, sweet-talk lovers, gossip to girlfriends and pacify landlords, creditors and relatives.

All is fast and slick and sleek and urgent, yet we glide along in the treacle of a sunny morning, without deadline or obligation and given to happy distraction from the loosely defined aims of each day. Without us and those like us, who would admire the beauty and cleverness of it all? Who would crane up at the friezes, gargoyles and light fittings, grin at the neon and the synchronised Charge of the Yellow Cab Brigade, saunter through the pretty streets of the Village in the appreciatively nonchalant manner they deserve?