Monday, 29 December 2008

The weekend

Tourists take over London on a weekend. Every Saturday, a new Armada of Spaniards, Italians and Frenchmen invades Central London, turning every street into a queue, every corner a waiting room. Camera in hand, Ryanair or Easyjet tag on their luggage, bewildered look on their faces, they patiently queue up to take the same picture as everybody else, with everybody else in it, to buy the same t-shirt and key chain, walk the same streets, eat the same glazed nuts, get into the same cafeteria.

London iswarming tourists

The London Eye is a wheel of glittering sparkles out of a fairy tale, with a thousand flashes from inside the cabins. I stand in awe and amazement; I wonder at how widespread technology is among the masses, yet how scarce are those savvy enough to extract any value out of it. Flashing the Houses of Parliament, in full daylight, 1km away, from behind a glass?

The city grows out of the swarming biomass like a termite mound. Westminster, Victoria, Oxford Street, Piccadilly, Trafalgar, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Fuckingham Falace, all teeming with the unsynchronized swinging of tens of thousands of limbs, the dissonant chatter of thousands of voices, the glitter of thousands of flashes.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde ParkWinter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Many would hate this. I love it. I love being in it, moving in it, smelling it, tasting it, swimming my way through the conglomeration of bodies and shouts and sweat and excitement and surprise and joy.

Camden Town MarketCamden Town Market

Most of all, I love the Sunday market in Camden Town. Memories of Thailand keep rolling in. The market is not that big and the prices are 6 to 7 times higher, yet the sellers are very frequently Indians or Arabs, which means prices are, also here, "flexible". You don't even need to haggle, just stare at something for 3 minutes while insisting you're just looking, thanks, and the price plummets like the British Pound.

The weekend in London is sparkling, spectacular, magic, a numbing kaleidoscope of colour and sound, a ride on a roller-coaster. I can't wait for the weekend to begin.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Go Central

When the never-ending sprawling labyrinths of silent streets lined with crumbling brown-faced victorian houses by the railway bridges of Lewisham get my spirits too low for the fried chicken/kebab shops and off-licence Kwik-e-Marts of New Cross to raise, I jump on board a wheeled red cocktail-shaker and go on a pilgrimage to London Central.

I walk the shushed back streets of Westminster and the chilly banks of the Thames, then I hop on the first bus to anywhere. I climb the hills of Hampstead Heath, where foxes howl at night. I tread on the crackling rustling of dry leaves in Green and St James' parks, then get a free UV session by standing outlined against the squall of colour and light in Piccadilly Circus. I take a tour of spicy SoHo, watching dealers and strip clubs, among the ringing and squeaking of rickshaws and the calls of alcohol-marinated chavs.

In the day, I plunge into the avalanche of shoppers in Oxford Street and raging hordes of tourists elsewhere, having my body bumped against a thousand bodies, and my ears caressed by a thousand different languages, both familiar and exotic.

In the night, I walk alone through soulless streets, the sleeping city my good company. I watch the orangey silhouette of Big Ben ghostly rising from the silent mist, propped up by a ray of orange light. Dancing on the dark Thames I find the surprised O of the London Eye, the moon its written accent. I lose myself in the labyrinth of glass and light of the Docklands, my sights on the tip of One Canada Square, hypnotized by its rhythmic lightning bolt electrocuting the speeding clouds.

Hammersmith to Islington, Camden to Victoria, I zigzag through London in the night. I make my way back in the ambiguous hours when early risers go jogging and hordes of hooker-dressed clubbers dizzystep their giggly way back wherever they call home, wearing their high heels in their hands. Refreshed and uplifted, I go back to my current residence in London's Bronx, knowing that Central is the place to be, dreaming of the day I can finally Go Central for real.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Send me an angel

I woke up to an overflowing bladder and the worst hangover in a decade. I pinballed my wretched body wall-to-wall all the way to my crappy latrine. As I watched several litres of yellow excretion flee my body and transfer to the London sewage system, recollection dawned.

Or it should have. It actually didn't. Doing my best to piece together the shards of my shattered memory, this is what I think happened. I ingested vast quantities of alcohol in the shape of an amber flowing fluid, at a handy measure of one pound sterling per every half-litre container. I talked to people. I queued for more half-litre containers. I danced. I danced?? I danced! At one point, I looked at the bar and they had just stopped serving drinks.

Then there's suddenly no more information. A black screen. Cut to the next scene, where I am trying to make my way home. Apparently an earthquake is in process, for I have difficulty walking straight and in an upright position. Sudden cut to the next scene, where I am puking my guts out, then I fall down and pass out.

Then a big black emptiness. Then, sudden cut to mid-action, where I am talking to someone. I look up. Under a blinding light, a pale-faced, ginger-haired young man dressed in bright white is helping me to my feet and talking me back to my senses.

I don't know what we're talking about, but I guess I'm giving him my life-story rant: where I'm from, where I'm now, why I'm in the gutter. He follows attentively and encouragingly. He's being very nice to me. The fumes of alcohol clouding my vision clear up a bit and I take a better look at him. He's dressed in white, yes: white trainers, white sneakers, a white cap. He has a shabby beard of 4 hairs and crooked, unpaired teeth.

We talk on for a while, but now we're walking. Somehow now I'm managing to walk in a straight line, so, his mission fulfilled, he sees me off. Over my shoulder, I thank him somehow, but I can't remember any words, just connotative goodwill and friendliness, which he graciously acknowledges. Here recollection stops: a damp smell and the sound of pouring urine bring back the now.

Suddenly alarmed, I pinball back to my room and check that I came back with all my stuff: money, check; mobile, check; glasses, check. I hit the hay again with such a feeling of gratitude as I haven't felt in ages. Thank you, guardian angel with crooked teeth.

Friday, 5 December 2008


My glasses decided today that they had had enough and were not going to put up with my abuse anymore. After sleeping on them again, and twitching them into something worthy of the Guggenheim, I tried to give them their true shape back. The right arm snapped like a twig in my guilty hand. Luckily, over the last decades a handsome bit of technology has been applied to the idea of "glue". I applied the idea, the technology and the product.

Today I've also kicked goodbye the preposterous salmon coating of my room. I've splashed and sloshed and worked and sweated and sworn quite a bit, but now I'm the happy paint-spotted tenant of an empty room glowing in glorious white.

Why am I telling these stories? Because they're all I've got. That's how interesting my life has become. That's how full of magic and surprise and ecstatic amazement my everyday is. Right, I once more go out, do stuff, meet people and drink more than a reasonable amount. But it's not the same. Something's changed. Something's missing. There's a big black hole sucking away the sparks, and it's deep inside me.

I wish I could tell you of euphoria and ecstasy, of epiphanic insights into the clockwork of the universe, of lives other than my own and places other than this. But that would be pure artifice. The feeling is gone. The Childlike Empress must be ill: the Nothing is here.