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Victoria August 23, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I think to myself within half a second of arriving in the UK. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why did I come? Shit, I miss home. Damn, I must have missed at least 300 spam e-mails by now. Fuck. It’ll be awkward seeing the brother I still owe 80 million pounds to. Bugger, I won’t get a chance to see a single London friend and then will feel guilty and this feeling will only be redoubled by getting testy e-mails from the relatives/friends I didn’t see at all or enough saying, ‘Well, I must say, I think you could have…’ Bugger, it’s too late to text everyone I know. Why is eaSyjet always late? I wish Luton Airport would stop pretending it was in London.”

“Bugger,” I think to myself having got out of the airport building. “There isn’t a bus to the station for another hour. Bugger, it’s already a million o’clock. God, it’s freezing for the middle of summer. There’ll be no trains. I bet that Australian regrets wearing shorts. Fuck, I haven’t got a jacket. Christ, there are designated smoking areas outside. Can’t I smoke anywhere I can freeze? Bugger, I’ll have to get a coach.”

Which was quite entertaining. “Where ya gaain’?” a member of coach-staff asked each of the frozen tourists proffering their bags for safe-keeping. After lots of sorrys and excuse-mes, they would answer. “Finchley Road,” a Latvian might say, shyly. “Baker Street,” an American might offer, hoping they’d understood the question rightly. “Victoria,” I said, having forgotten London’s geography and hoping I’d be able to make it from there to the wilds of far south-west London. “That’ll be 700 pounds,” said the driver. “Can you wait a couple of hours while I try and earn the fare working as a prostitute?” “Yeah, no fuckin’ problem, mate.”

We trundled off to London. Brent Cross. (“Why did we go out of town to shop?”) Childs Hill. (I waved to my father buried close by.) Swiss Cottage. (“Oh god, did I think that was a tourist attraction when we had Spanish exchange students when I was 14?”) Lords Cricket Ground. (No-one got off.) Baker Street. (Saw a mad, ancient, freezing, homeless man who made me have positive thoughts about Sweden.) Marble Arch. (“God, isn’t Oxford Street a shit-hole?”) Hyde Park Corner. (“That Wellington Memorial should be much famouser than Marble Arch.”) And Victoria.

I followed some Italians who seemed to know London better than I did and made my way to the train station. And, for whatever time it was in the morning – maybe 2 by now – the place was heaving with life. People milling around outside the train station. Homeless folk in sleeping bags. Ne’er-do-wells loitering with ill intent. (I pursed my lips.) Police cruising around. Gazillions of lost tourists (the category I fit best into). And drunk Londoners waiting for night buses. I went to a cashpoint to withdraw another 900 quid for whichever bus it was I’d end up taking. Sainsbury’s was the only bank around. “Sainsbury’s?” Then I wandered frozenly from stop to stop, seeing if any of the N-routes went to anywhere I’d heard of. Nsomething. Camberwell. “Oh buggery fuck.” Nsomethingelse. Tulse Hill. “Double buggery.” I wandered on, thinking how long it would be before regular transport started again. Then collared two gents wearing fluorescent yellow and asked if there was a bus to Waterloo, which I naively thought might have trains running through the night. And, sure enough, there was a 24-hour bus-route that’d take me there.

I settled in for a freezing wait and watched London life go by. An Italian homeless man came and offered me a one-day travelcard seeing me struggling with the machine. I explained I had no change. I dashed off to an open café. Bought the smallest drink I could see, a minute bottle of apple-juice. Gave the cashier 400 quid and dashed off to finish off my transaction with the Italian. He started his next transaction with a pair of mystified Japanese tourists. A Polish boy with lovely Slavic hair helped a French woman with the slightly incomprehensible London transport system. “No, you must go to stop X.” “Got a Rizla, pal?” asked a Scottish gent who’d fallen on the hardest of times. Unfortunately, his askees were the same Japanese couple who by now must have been suffering from a persecution complex. Another homeless man approached me and asked with exasperation, as if he’d already asked me 19 times and I was being particularly intransigent, “Can ya just fuckin’ gimme 80 pence?” I splashed out and gave him a quid. “At long fuckin’ last,” he exclaimed cirrhotically and wandered off. Two Korean girls looked uncomprehendingly between their watches and the timetable.

The bus came in its own good time. I clambered on and asked, touristically, for the driver to let me off at the nearest stop to Waterloo. He duly did so. The Eye was resplendent. Parliament gave me a thrill. I wondered what would become of Waterloo’s international terminus whenever the new Eurostar bit will be ready. Wished I had a jacket. And got to Waterloo. Which was as closed as closed could be. “Oh stinking buggery fuck,” I hollered internally, longing for a warm bed in Pankow and the Russian’s generous girth.

Luckily, there was an all-night hypnotherapy centre open and I dashed in and uncovered from the depths of my cerebral recesses that there was a night-bus from Piccadilly to Twickenham which would only mean a 20-minute walk on either side of the journey. Struggled over Hungerford Bridge. “God, isn’t London fab?” Saw youngsters hanging around outside an expensive-looking night-club. Trolled up to Trafalgar Square. Examined the incomprehensible night-bus map. Gave up. Wandered to Piccadilly through Leicester Square. Caught hypothermia. And then wondered at London’s huge size as I took the night-bus for three hundred hours as far as Twickenham. Posher youngsters loitering outside an even more expensive-looking night-club on Kings Road. Worried I’d fallen asleep and had ended up in Dorset as we drove forever through Putney Common. And then hoped I’d at least get the sight of some lovely foxes scampering about in night-time Twickers…

Did I buggery. Too freezing even for them.

Comments»

1. marshaklein - August 23, 2007

Not your most successful trip to the UK then…? Glad you’re back and blogging. Mr K. and I fly to Berlin 3 weeks today. Oo-er!

2. BiB - August 23, 2007

I was there for a wedding and that was wonderful. The wedding-goers met the night before too, which was lovely, but the price of drinks! Never again will I drink a Mojito in London. (13 quid, since you ask.) (Mind you, I found German Weissbier. A mere 4 quid a pint.)

Let’s swap photos soon. I’ll send one of me when I was 15, before I became a perfectly rotund potato.

3. Billy - August 23, 2007

Your thoughts when travelling are rather similar to mine.

4. pleite - August 23, 2007

It can be a pain being a tourist Billy, can’t it? Even in your hometown. Still, London manages to compensate for its impossibleness with its gorgeousness. My ambition before my next trip is to learn what an Oyster card is. I must have spent well over a hundred quid on transport in under a week (though I did make it as far as the wilds of West Sussex too).

5. bowleserised - August 23, 2007

I hate London.

Welcome home, love!

6. MountPenguin - August 23, 2007

What is a Rizla? I may be passing through London within the next few weeks, is it something I need to have / avoid?

Anyway, London is definitely way more expensive than Tokyo now.

7. narrowback - August 23, 2007

it’s experiences like that which put one off of traveling outside of your usual stomping grounds.

8. Taiga the Fox - August 23, 2007

Oh, isn’t it so nice to be at home again? [says one who lost her nerves this summer first in Germany, then in Estonia, then in Latvia and once more in Estonia and will not travel anymore, except in September. Sigh. I must be mad. I do love London as well.]

9. pleite - August 23, 2007

Taiga, it’s heaven to be home, I think, even though I don’t know my arse from my elbow. I’m hanging around waiting for life (which, I suppose, boringly means work) to get going again. My body will die of shock. I don’t know why I’m not homeless.

Narrowback, it is. And they’re extra-disconcerting when they’re in the city you were born and grew up in. Do you ever get similarly lost/frustrated when back in New York? Of course I wonder if I should move back there, but it doesn’t feel like home at all any more, really. Where I’m from, yes, but not home.

Penguin, you need have no truck with Rizlas. They’re cigarette papers for people who roll their own (quite a number of whom, I shouldn’t wonder, tend to add an illegal substance. I think the only reason I can’t be a dope-fiend is that I can’t cope with imperial weight measurements). If you were mysteriously to take up smoking, may I recommend you buy red Gauloises, which some kind soul/machine has rolled for you in advance. Anyway, do go and have a peek at London. The bridges are good. The City’s worth wandering round for ducking into ancient churches and marvelling at all those people in suits. And bankrupting yourself in ten minutes.

B., thank you. As I say, I think it’s lovely to be back. My London attitude is forever doomed to be a love-hate one. Mind you, being abroad and having family there, I might just as well be in Penzance for all the advantage I get to take of the place. I had to do the same journey back in the middle of the night, and it was vaguely thrilling to wander around Hyde Park at 3 in the morning. But, basically, I don’t think I know the city well at all.

10. Valerie in San Diego - August 24, 2007

You do seem to be having that surreal experience where you “come home”… and it’s just like when you’re travelling. Maybe it IS true that you can’t come home again. Either that or your plane flashed into an alternate universe.

11. narrowback - August 24, 2007

BiB…I know exactly what you mean. tho’ i’ve lived in chicago for over 20 years i still think of myself as a “new yorker” to some degree. i’ll add however that a lot of that has to do with how chicagoans perceive me…as still the “new yorker” despite the 20+ years of residency

at this point I get confused – even timid – when I return to nyc. a friend just relocated his pub/bar from manhattan to brooklyn (from inner to outer) and I’ve been stressed about how to get out there to visit…”y’know it might be a dicey area out there”, i might have to take the outlandish step of borrowing my mum’s car and drive there.

I do enjoy it when a taxi driver (is that what you meant by “coach” or is that a bus as I’ve assumed) at the airport tries to rip me off. I’ve lost my accent and my attitude so they peg me as a ignorant midwesterner…

“Penn Station please”

“where are ya goin’?”

“Lomg Island – Deer Park”

“Ah there’s no trains out to there at this hour of the night… I’ll drive you there for $100.”

“YOU FECKIN” THIEVING EJEET. I”M FROM HERE! it’s $25 to Penn station and there’s a train every hour around the clock”

thieving cab drivers aside, I still miss some aspects of it tho i know i couldn’t move back there…it’s part of who i am but not no longer what i am if that makes any sense

12. MountPenguin - August 24, 2007

Aaaah, now you mention it, I believe I have seen Rizlas before. They must be available hereabouts too.

I agree that London is perfectly nice for pottering about in, which I have done on many occasions, and there was a very brief period when you might have found me in the City in an actual suit failing to persuade various global financial institutions of my suitability to be paid a great deal of money in return for my suit-wearing services.

Narrowback, in the UK a “coach” is a long-distance bus (and the back of the aeroplane where the hoi-polloi sit in close proximity to oneanother is “economy class”, except if you’re flying RyanAir then it’s “cattle class”).

13. Karl-Marx-Straße - August 24, 2007

I think the only reason I can’t be a dope-fiend is that I can’t cope with imperial weight measurements

No worries, BiB! Last time I was back I was reliably informed they’ve gone metric. EU rules and all that, I suspect. See you at Weinbergsweg!

14. Ed Ward - August 24, 2007

MIght I be cruel enough to suggest that your sufferings make hilarious reading? Not, of course, that anything even remotely similar has ever happened to me. Noooooo…

15. pleite - August 24, 2007

Karl, a person I know who’s down wiv da kidz told me sixteenth is now abbreviated to ‘teenth’. But what appears to be a good thing, if you’re against da kidz smoking dope, is that if dope-fiends ARE now buying teenths, then consumption appears to have halved because it was always an eighth (presumably now abbreviated to ‘th’) in my day. Or da kidz are twice as broke. Very good for elementary maths skills though, isn’t it? (Do people buy 32nds?)

Penguin, I do slightly heave a sigh of relief when I happen to be at Bank tube station, say, around rush hour and see the people in suits charging around. (The women don’t look quite so uniform.) I suppose once you’re in that world, maybe it’s easy to get addicted to the money. I met a gay gentleman the day Labour won the election in 1997 – I watched the election results in a gay pub. Excellent fun. Not a Tory in sight. Shared moment of joy – and he worked in The City and earned a billion pounds a second and claimed he was getting more and more Socialist and would get out of it all in a couple of years. He encouraged me to do likewise. So I went and worked for a Christian charity in Russia earning $50 a month. I am incapable of being rich.

Narrowback, that is EXACTLY what I feel about London. So exactly. Part of who I am but no longer what I am. Genau genau. And it’s funny when made to feel an outsider by insiders, like with taxi drivers, as you say, or just not knowing what people are talking about when some local phenomenon or other comes up. One of my sisters lived in Spain at one point and we were amazed when she came back to London and hadn’t heard of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Sorry, stupid example, but you know what I mean. The Russian and I were once talking Russian on the street in London and someone moaned about the ‘bloody foreigners’. I protested, and they sort of dissembled. I’m always a foreigner here, of course, but that doesn’t matter. My brother in NZ has an in-between experience. He feels he’s an NZer now and has the passport. But he still has an English accent, so is a Pom to the locals. Again, not that it matters. But, yes, London… just don’t know what to think. It’s become like a place on TV to me. (And I still can’t understand how anyone who doesn’t work in The City can afford to live there.) (And, yes, coach = bus, only 80 times more expensive because the seats are squishier and have seat-belts.)

Valerie, yes, perhaps that’s it. You can’t come home again. Though if I ever needed to run away from life, I’m sure London is where I’d run to. Perhaps bonkersly. Especially when Ljubljana might do just as well. Is San Diego your hometown? Does Rob have similar queer emotions about the Australia/California thing?

16. pleite - August 24, 2007

Ed, we overlap. Hurrah! I owe you a million e-mails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet your pal. As I say, London trips are pure guilt-trips now, as I never get to see anyone not related to me (or who wasn’t once an in-law). Thankfully, a wedding meant I got to see a gaggle of old pals, and lots of newish pals, as it was a London-Berlin affair. And very nice too. But a disgrace not to have seen my old pal Lukeski. It’s official, Liukchik, if I am ever to see you again, you must come to Berlin.

17. annie - August 24, 2007

Awwww. Very vivid. Poor BiB, it is a nightmare getting in from Luton when it’s late. Next time: fly to Stansted. Stansted Express to Liverpool Street. 15 minute bus ride to my house. Voila!

(Though I somehow managed to cock up this time and get a slooooooow train instead of the Stansted Express, which stopped at every small town called names like Sheepshagger and Yokel on the way. Was nearly crying with frustration as I so wanted to come home. After this ‘fun’ holiday, I’m never leaving the country again.)

18. pleite - August 24, 2007

Annie, but you must give us the second installment of your holiday saga immediately. It was a gripping read. Desperate to know what naughty Barbara the German was up to… And the Russian got his visa the day after the wedding. Its validity is practically over already. Hurrah for expensive, crap bureaucracy.

19. Marsha Klein - August 24, 2007

I’m thinking I might try to get a haircut before taking a photo to send you, but I will send one soon (so that you have time to think of an excuse not to meet up!!)

20. pleite - August 24, 2007

Darling, I wouldn’t dream of not meeting up. Actually, there is talk of a trip to Glasgow for another family occasion around the time you’re here, but I’ll make sure the dates don’t coincide completely so that I at least have one evening to see you. It might not happen anyway. (The family thing. Not the meeting you.) (Did you get the snaps I sent you? Just add the nerves and that’ll be me scampering down the road to meet you and Brian.)

21. liukchik - August 24, 2007

I have been as busy as pants all week anyway;) New flat in 2 weeks time… 500 metres from where I live now.

22. Appy Linguist - August 25, 2007

Oh, snap. Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap. Even to the point of having a brother in NZ (mine since 1990).

Not snap about London, of course, but Up North instead. It’s cold, it’s expensive, people think I’m foreign, I feel foreign… and I most likely sound it, too.

I keep wanting to speak to people in German/Danish/anything other than English, and I can hardly get the words out when I realise I need to switch to English.

It’s been almost two years since I was last in the UK for a quick visit, I think, and you can tell. Same thing for me – it’s where I’m from, but it’s not my ‘home’. For me that’s still Copenhagen – that’s where my heart is, despite everything.

Oh, and they’re serious about this non-smoking thing, aren’t they? No-smoking signs everywhere – and pavements full of smokers outside pubs. I never knew there were so many smokers!

23. Karl-Marx-Straße - August 25, 2007

Is there actually a “no-smoking” law or just a “no-smoking-sign compulsion” law?

I ask, as it seems the main part of this law is to force people to put up signs everywhere telling everyone else that you can’t smoke there.
And if they don’t put up the signs, they get fined. e.g. in churches, cathedrals, doctor’s surgery waiting rooms, chemists, wedding dress hire shops, dry cleaners, greengrocers, in baker’s shops, butchers….(I don’t know where a candlestick maker is, but I bet he’s got a massive sign in the shop window).

And I know this madness can’t be restricted to the few streets I walked through in the hours when the chances of getting shot at by a 12-year old in a camoflage hoodie were reasonably remote, as I did notice a few minutes of EastEnders last time I was back, and everywhere in Walford was full of the signs too, and everyone knows that the scripts of that particular programme are written thanks to the help of various lobby groups (“If you have a problem with anti-cancer signage and would like to talk to a professional about it, you can phone the BBC helpline on this number for the next 7 minutes, or digital viewers can press the red button to see examples of correctly and incorrectly placed signage. Offenders can also be seen explaining why they won’t do it again.”)

What is it about Britain that has turned it into a place full of inane signs telling people not do do things that no-one with half a brain would’t consider doing anyway? Russia under Stalin probably seemed liberal when it came to signage on the bloody obvious compared to the UK these days. Wtf is going on? I started photographing all the “do not”/”do”/”no” signs I walked past, but then I reached the “no photography” ones and started getting scared I’d get arrested under terrorism laws and was pleased I’d soon be leaving the place to get back here. Rant rant rant, it beggars belief

24. Karl-Marx-Straße - August 25, 2007

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25. liukchik - August 25, 2007

The no smoking signs legally have to be displayed at the entrance to all public areas enclosed by at least 3 walls and a roof – parallel to this you have the other signs that politely ask people not to smoke outside entrances to buildings, bus stops, etc.

26. pleite - August 25, 2007

Liukchik, does that mean a bus-stop qualifies (on the three-wall scale, I mean)? Which might explain why Luton Airport even had designated smoking areas outside. And I think I might flagrantly have smoked at a bus-stop or two. I’m so glad to hear you were busy. The only free seconds I had were on Monday afternoon, when I thought of turning up at your shop. But my mother somehow browbeat me into watching Home & Away instead. If she didn’t have a bridge over the Thames where I could go and contemplate (suicide) within a five-minute walk of her house, I might get very gloomy chez elle indeed.

Karl, you remind me. Of course I’m embarrassed to make a 1984 point… But I was on a train. Waterloo to the burbs. Within three seconds of the train pulling out, there was all the ‘Welcome aboard this South-West Trains train to wherever, calling at wherever’. Ten seconds later another one about keeping your luggage out of the aisles. And then, in a quite prim voice, “Beggars sometimes board our trains. Please do not encourage them by giving them money. If you see a beggar, please alert a member of staff.” I could not believe my fucking ears. Isn’t it up to me a tad how I engage with ‘beggars’? Actually, perhaps the only good thing about Luton Airport is that it is a ‘quiet terminal’, so you aren’t constantly bombarded with nonsense messages and announcements. “Please do not set yourself on fire as this may cause delays and distress to other passengers.” Is it Nu-Labour control-freakery? When did all the CCTV start? (Did you mean to leave a second comment that came out just as a < or should I delete that?)

Appy, this was the first time I’d done the smoking-outside thing and I quite enjoyed it, in spite of the freezingness, because there was some solidarity to be had with the other toxic types. I’m sure the novelty would wear off pretty quickly though. Hopefully I’ll be giving up again soon… And so glad to hear that you have the same feelings about, umm, home and away. (Maybe that’s why my mother wanted me to watch, thinking it would deal with difficult philosophical conundrums for me.) I’m not sure I’m as confident yet about Berlin as you are about Copenhagen. Berlin is certainly home, but I don’t know yet if it’s ‘spiritual home’. (Sorry, can’t think of a less wank way of expressing it.) But it’s become home by accident. Russia could never have become spiritual home, though it was fun while it lasted. France? Dunno. Fantasy no. 1 is living in the middle of nowhere in a particularly beautiful part of Scotland (or Wales at a push) (or England, just I haven’t been to any of the staggeringly beautiful bits of England), though it’s probably as unrealistic as me giving up smoking. Do you know what makes Copenhagen be it for you?

27. Appy Linguist - August 25, 2007

A mixture of stuff, I’d say:

Partly history – I went through loads of ‘life’ there, and even owned my own flat for a couple of years (proper mortgage and all that) before flogging it to go back to Britain to try and get brainier.

Partly familiarity – I definitely know the city better than anywhere else (yet there are still lots of parts I don’t know), and I have my own traditions of how I get the best out of the city to live my normal life there.

Partly the ‘feel’ of the place – its size, its transport system, etc. But mainly because over the years it’s had a draw that’s pulled me back again and again. I’ve missed it when I haven’t been there, and I haven’t disliked it when I have been there – apart from between November 2001 until quite some time after I left in July 2002, a period that coincided with the right-wing government being voted in and a noticeable increase in racism on the streets, on public transport and on TV; that really annoyed me, but I’ve since forgiven the place.

Anyway, with my plans it could be another seven years before I can return there to live – if ever.

28. Valerie in San Diego - August 25, 2007

I don’t know where home is really, myself. I was born in Los Angeles (in the San Fernando Valley, so I am licensed to sing Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl” in an appropriately annoying accent), but we moved to Michigan when I was 1.5, then back to San Diego when I was 12. I suppose Southern California, in general, feels like home, which is pretty weird when you think about it.

Rob does feel torn. Though he’s been in the U.S. for longer than he lived in Perth (he was born in Adelaide), I think Perth still feels like home to him, but when he goes back there he sees how much it’s changed, and it’s very confusing.

I think home is a place that no longer exists, for him. :-/

29. narrowback - August 26, 2007

BiB I think that growing up in a weltstadt – even if out in the burbs – does leave some serious impressions on you that you’ll never be able to shed. as a friend once said “that’s background they’ve tatooed on yer brain”. “genau, genau” exactly

the statement by thomas wolfe – “you can’t go home again” – has always resonated with me…so for me “home” is a somewhat nebulous, multi-faceted concept…the tract home in the suburbs where I grew up and visit my mum to this date (I’ve been troubled when the owner sibling has discussed selling it – how can one sell Tara?) is one “home”…my domicile in chicago is another “home”, I’ve also felt quite at home at Rocky Sullivans pub on the east side on manhattan for a number of years.

“i never felt so much at home anywhere as I do in new york. i must be a devil” – brendan behan

and I can say the same about how I feel in berlin tho i’m more apt to ascribe it to reincarnation than demonic possession…

sorry if my comments have been thin and slow as of late…i’m filling in for a boss on maternity leave which is tough enough but this week we got hit by a BAD summer storm.. the wee little dorf I’m now rersponsible for got hit pretty bad…100 mph winds with tree damage, flooding and power loss…spent the best of the past 24 hours trying to figure out how to keep sewage from backing up into people’s homes. I sure did not want to return those phone calls

boss is back at the end of october and i’m gonna take a month sabbatical (hey if she can take three months off for maternity I can get a month for mental health -right!?) Berlin’s on the agenda so I hope you’ll be around for another booze up/smoke fest while we can stioll do it indoors

30. pleite - August 26, 2007

Narrowback, every single comment is an undeserved honour and privilege, so you need never apologise for their frequency or infrequency. And, yes, you’ll certainly deserve a month off for good behaviour come November, when we can have another wintry boozeandcigathon. Very much indoors. After such a miserable summer here, I’m already dreading winter, so a November highlight will be all the more welcome… I suppose Weltstädte have a home-making quality of their own, perhaps extending a warm welcome to newcomers rather than swaddling cosily the people from there who know no different. My mother moved to London pretty much as a child, and while its internationalness wouldn’t have been one of the things that attracted her, I’m guessing – anyway, it was the late 40s, so not such an international place then – it certainly became home. Plus it’s where she’s done all her grown-up stuff. All that getting-married-and-having-children lark. That’s all anchoring. Then I suppose the uniqueness of your own culture must be a factor. Russians feel (or like to feel) very different from other nations. My Russian can feel at home here, because life here is easier than there, but I think he will always find non-Russians (I might scrape through as an exception) extremely foreign.

Valerie, I’ve spent a long time worrying about home and not having one ever since my ex-mother-in-law, a shrink, told me that a mental home was very necessary. Now I think I might be getting round to disagreeing. Perhaps a mental home would be a comfort, but if you haven’t got one, and this must go for so many people in this day and age, I suppose that’s too bad. As reluctant as I am to admit it, I think the unknown becomes less attractive with age. Which is why even a known unknown like London was frustrating this time round. If I ever make it to oldness and am not completely broke, I suppose I’ll be the type to go on cruises where I don’t have to do a single bit of exploration for myself but am ushered around by someone who does all the non-home stuff for you. I wonder if it’s all to do with identity a bit too, this home-stuff. You have your off-pat labels. London. English. British. Whatever. And perhaps they have as much of an enforeigning and unhomemaking quality as they do the opposite. I wonder if it’d be nice to come from a village and to have stayed there your whole life. Still, too late for that now. I’m spoiled by the times we grow up in.

Appy, have you got major long-term plans then? I’m sorry for comparing you to my mother, but it sounds a bit like Copenhagen has become home in the way London did for my mother, because you’ve had defining experiences there. Now that my mother’s descendants have all moved away, there’s talk of her moving to be closer to at least one sibling. Either to a different edge of London (or just outside) or to Sussex. I asked why the Sussex option seemed to be being written off immediately, and she, I suppose naturally, wanted to still be in London, even if in a bit of it that looks like Sussex. But, as you say, all the things she knows. The Tube. The transport. The everything.

31. Appy Linguist - August 26, 2007

Well, I haven’t got married or given birth there! ;-)

In a way my parents’ house will always be home and, indeed, The Safest Place In The World – until they die, that is, which they keep reminding me won’t be too long now, and shouldn’t I settle down somewhere asap in readiness?

But my parents’ house is where I’m from and where my roots are (or were), but it’s not a place I consider my adult home – that’s Copenhagen, and it happened by accident rather than design.

Maybe it’ll just take a bit more time for Berlin to feel like home? You’re painting kitchen tables and getting new fridges, and so I think you must be well on the way. It certainly sounds like a home.

In fact, yeah – you must already be a Berliner, BiB. Quick, rush out and rent an allotment!

32. pleite - August 26, 2007

Appy, yes, Berlin – if it is home. I suppose it is – has also become home by accident. I didn’t even like the place to start with, but now can’t think of anywhere I’d specifically rather be. The last place I got gigglily excited about was Barcelona, but I didn’t want to up sticks and move there. I have yet another sibling in Glasgow and she said to me on the phone the other day that, just as Berlin has become home by accident for me (and Copenhagen has for you), so Glasgow has for her. Actually, I had some Danish guests not long ago and they did point out that ours was the least decorated balcony on the street, so we’d be hopeless allotment people. Which the Russian should be ashamed of, what with their fine tradition of the dacha and having your own cabbage, carrots, potatoes and garlic. I think my father had an allotment in London for a while, like Arthur Fowler. Can’t remember our kitchen table (unpainted) struggling under the weight of fresh produce though. Maybe, like Arthur, it was where he went to do his best thinking.

33. Appy Linguist - August 27, 2007

Ah, it might be better to start out with a window box, then. What about growing a few turnips on the balcony?

I forgot to reply about long-term plans: I’m vaguely considering seeing if I can move to Hawai’i for about five years in two years’ time, for professional academic interests (which can be found no-where else on earth in the same form – and believe me, I’ve searched high and low). But I’m not sure if that’s enough reason by itself, especially as it’s even further from Copenhagen than Baden-Württemberg is.

34. Karl-Marx-Straße - August 27, 2007

I want an allotment. I must be able to jump the queue, mustn’t I, I’ve got peppers and tomatoes in a windowbox, and, erm, privets. Did you dad, BiB, shoot someone and hide the gun in his allotment? I seem to vaguely remember that being a storyline in EastEnders in about 1652. It was part of some gun/knife amnesty-plot by the Metropolitan Police. I wonder if any of those knife bins outside unstaffed police stations ever got nicked, I mean, it would be handy, if you were considering going to stab someone in a pub carpark..but my, what a choice of weapons.

35. Valerie in San Diego - August 27, 2007

Barcelona is very giggily-excitement-inducing, and rightly so, but that’s because we don’t live there. If we did, perhaps we’d grumble about the noise and the partying at night, how hard it is to get up in the morning, and how everything and everyone is so darned attractive.

Well, perhaps.

36. Ed Ward - August 27, 2007

Well, there’s the great Tom X’s statement that “wherever you go, there you are.” Which means — among other things — that you can’t escape who you are no matter where you live. Berlin’s become a mental “home” for me over the past 14 years, but I guess I’m not happy with what it’s made me, which is one reason I want to move on. I’m happy enough with who I am in general, but not happy with what who I am has to do to cope with life here. I’m more than willing to move who I am to a place where others seem to be more like who I am, realizing in advance that there’s no such place as paradise.

37. marshaklein - August 27, 2007

Have sent photo. Please don’t laugh!

38. pleite - August 27, 2007

Marsha, got ’em, and didn’t laugh for a single sec. Will work like a demon between now and your arrival and hopefully will be up for painting the town red(dish) (I won’t suggest a discotheque or anything) once you’re here.

Ed, I hear ya. And, in spite of myself, I sometimes want to remember how much I didn’t like Berlin when I first moved here and wonder how it is I’ve ended up feeling OK in the place when I, in a way, feel it’s here I’ve turned into an alcoholic, nervous-wreck loser. I mean, I don’t think I ever disliked Paris or St. Petersburg majorly, though I was ready to leave both when I did. And then it’s too hard to know what any prevailing attitude to London means, whether hating or loving it is just a function of something else. But, yes, no getting away from being a self. I’d love to be someone else sometimes, but, god, it’d be hard to get used to.

Valerie, I very much agree. Barcelona was wonderful when I went for a few days one February. Warm, when it was still freezing in Berlin. And beautiful and lively and everything. But I’m sure I’d miss miserable old northern Europeans after a while and could never cope with all that happiness they insist upon down there. Or the noise.

Karl, I don’t know if my dad’s acquisition of an allotment coincided with a life of crime. Nothing exciting ever happens in my family. I’d love to find out now, a squillion years after his death, that he was in fact the head of the West London Vegetable Mafia and that there had been turf wars (literally) with Teddy ‘The Turnip’ Trindle and Freddie ‘The Foxglove’ Farmer… How do your peppers and tomatoes turn out? How much does an allotment here cost? Are they rented or do you have to buy the bastard? (I have a friend with an allotment blog, but I can’t link, of course.)

Appy, you are good with your plans and your academic ambitions. Good for you. I wonder if I should get a plan and an ambition. Or a life. Rather than just having a blog. Though I think I prefer having a blog to a life. Well, Hawai’i is indeed far far away from Copenhagen, but who knows? You could fall in love with the place. And think of the climate and the beauty. And, hang on a sec, aren’t Hawai’ians and Maoris ethnic cousins? Maoris are the absolute total horn.

39. Appy Linguist - August 27, 2007

“Maoris are the absolute total horn.”

Does that mean what I think it means? ;-)

40. pleite - August 27, 2007

It does. Not that I dabbled, of course. But an awfully beautiful bunch. If you’re into huge. Maoris are man and woman mountains.

41. engelsk - August 27, 2007

I didn’t know that! But perhaps I should have done, having seen ‘Once Were Warriors’.

42. Karl-Marx-Straße - August 27, 2007

The price of an allotment is based on two things: the yearly rent, usually a few hundred Euros; and the amount you pay to the previous tenant for all their hard work over the years (and the hut on it), which can be in the 10s of thousands, depending on location. You have to get on a waiting list first (but you can just jump the queue, apparently, if you have the readies, the previous tenants will sort you out on that front)… and the rules are, that if two people want to get an allotment together, they must both be living at the same Berlin address – and be *married*. That is, bizarrely, the law. And you aren’t allowed to live permanently in the hut either. Also 1/3 grass, 1/3 vegetables, 1/3 flowers, and NO evergreens or pine-type thingies. I suspect privets are also banned. Allotments here are meant for Erholung and not for growing-yer-own. Which is a shame.

43. Arabella - August 27, 2007

Thank you for taking me back to Victoria, and Waterloo, without my having to go. Such good writing.
Many associations – in the middle of the night, leaving or arriving; commuting to and from work. I don’t miss any of it.
I have never felt ‘at home’ anywhere, but experience varying degrees of happiness until I need to go somewhere else. This used to worry me. I felt better when I found out that the maternal side of my family were Roma. Which probably explains the love of music and dancing and shiny stuff.

And isn’t a substantial girth lovely to get back to?!

44. narrowback - August 28, 2007

good to know that my occaisional two cents is always welcome…it’s just at times i feel like a bit of an interloper

“…extending a warm welcome to newcomers rather than swaddling cosily the people from there who know no different…”

I think that’s a primary explanation of the “home making” power of a weltstadt. i’ve watched it develop here over the past 20+ years…when I first arrived in Chicago in the mid 80’s it was a rust-belt detroit in the making kind of backwater…”dis is how wese do it here…learn it and get wid da program”…in the last 7 years as the city has evolved into an national and international tourist destination and folks feel comfortable/safe enough to settle here strangers/newcomers aren’t perceived as alien intruders who’s motives are immediately suspect. Why, there are actually pizza shops that advertise “New York Style Pizza” which only 15 years ago would have resulted in the place being firebombed as a den of quislings…

New York has more influence on my than just my own individual memories/personality…it’s almost a tribal memory thing. My family’s roots in NYC go back to when both sets of great-grandparents stepped off the boat. Until very recently I was the only family member who ever relocated beyond the NY metro area and was thought as mad as a hatter for doing so.

speaking of russians… i recently started volunteering at an ESL program for elderly russian immigrants. that has been WAY interesting

thanks KMS for explaining some of the basic gound rules for those allotments/colonies… they’re usually one of the first things I get asked about by returning american visitors…there’s nothing remotely similar here in the states… that is garden allotments within the city. of course we have “the place in the country” be it the summer home, fishing camp or rusted out trailer home plopped down on the slope of mine spoil in west virginia.

45. pleite - August 29, 2007

Narrowback-most-welcome, I didn’t know that Chicago had been that kind of place. And I like the sound of it more now that it’s flung its arms open to the rest of the world (and country). What do the elderly Russians make of the place? Russians have tended not to emigrate much. Well, Russian Jews have of late (and quite a few have emigrated back to Russia) and there was always that tradition within the writing/intellectual fraternity, but they’ve mostly been a stay at home bunch. They moved within the Soviet Union though, of course, and now find themselves in the queer (to them) position of being (often) an unwelcome ethnic minority (such as in the Baltic states), rather than the bosses.

Arabella, thank you. And, yes, a lovely girth can be very welcoming. Of course it comes with a mouth attached, so often emits noises such as, “Your hands are cold,” “I’m trying to sleep,” “You have no soul,” but it’s mostly a good thing… That’s interesting that nowhere has felt like home. And if it might really be in the blood. Actually, talking of static Russians, one of the first things students of Russians study is a work by Pushkin called The Gypsies, romanticising their lifestyle and freedom galore.

Karl, bloody hell. What rules. Is an unmarried person even allowed to invite a friend over to the hut for a nice cup of tea, or aren’t they electrified? Or are there morality police standing at the entrance to each set of allotments? I’ve been to a friend’s summer house in Denmark – admittedly a bit grander than an allotment hut, but still – and there are all sorts of rules there too. You can’t live in it full-time. Winter trips are limited etc. etc.

Engelsk, welcome in your new guise! It all sounds like the perfect excuse for a pre-Hawai’i exploratory trip to your bro in NZ. Go and catch up on the rels. Check out the totty. Make important life-changing decision about slinking off to Hawai’i for a goodly age. Easy as pie!

46. Arabella - August 29, 2007

Now I intend to read Pushkin’s ‘The Gypsies’ (only know his poetry, so thanks for this pointer). Yes, the gypsy life must have been all fine and dandy till you were lynched for stealing babies etc!

47. pleite - August 29, 2007

Arabella, alas, it’s a poem too, if you’d fancied something prosey. A bloody long one, mind. I don’t think Pushkin did much prose. The only thing I’ve read that isn’t in verse is The Captain’s Daughter, which is fine if you’re in a boyish mood and like stories about posh boys who become unlikely military heroes. I think it’s got Pushkin’s only nasty character too. I don’t know what the best translation of The Gypsies is. Just remembering how much I loathe the translation I’m currently labouring under, I can’t imagine how even more fantastically loathsome a job it would be if I had to make things rhyme and scan too.

48. narrowback - August 30, 2007

The russian in the class are, with one exception, elderly and jewish. For the most part they seem to have followed or accompanied younger family members. Between the governmental assistance and community support they seem to be doing well by american standards…the ESL class has also given them a leg up on establishing a social network of their peers…

They’re all from large cities Moscow, Leni – oops – St. Petersburg, Minsk, Kiev, so they’re not intimidated by the “big city” like many of the immigrants from less developed parts of the world. They are (or were) all what would be called professionals here in the states…doctors, civil engineers, technical translators, etc. I know they’ve been thrilled at the cultural opportunities available in the city with the free weekly symphony concerts in our lakefront park being a particular hit.

My friend who invited me to assist brought me in to provide some socio-polical context for the lessons…in the first class I attended we discussed Chicago’s role in the development of the US labor movement, the CPUSA, the 1950’s red scare. At another I gave them an intro to chicago politics that I’m sure covered matters NOT discussed during the formal citizenship classes….”Vote early and often”

The transformation of Chicago over the past 10 years has been truly mind boggling even for an urban planner like me. I can’t tell you how frequently I’ll travel to or through a neighborhood that 10/15 years ago was either a ghost town or war zone and be stunned by the transformation “Geez, when did that crackhouse become a botique hotel?” Sure, there are still parts of the city that are “no-go” areas but the core is probably the most vibrant its been since the 1940’s…

49. pleite - August 30, 2007

Narrowback, that reminds me of my brother’s ex in New York. Some old relatives of hers moved to New York from Minsk. When my friend went to visit them, the man of the house was busy dressing for prayer. My pal asked her elderly female relative if she was an observant Jew too and she shouted back, “Kommunistka.” I’m sure I’ve mentioned on here somewhere before a film I saw called ‘Odessa Odessa’ which followed three sets of Odessan Jews. The ones who stayed in Ukraine, the ones who went to Israel and the ones who went to Brighton Beach. Those still in Ukraine seemed to mark the end of an era. The ones who’d gone to Israel were old and were struggling to adapt (and hated not being able to celebrate New Year with Grandfather Frost). The New York crowd seemed to be getting on well enough, though there was some moaning about ‘the Russians’ from the locals.

What makes formerly dodgy areas bloom? Is it just an increase in wealth in the city in general and that wealth spreading? Has this phenomenon been accompanied by, as it has in London, ‘ordinary people’ struggling to cope with the cost of everyday living?

50. Arabella - August 30, 2007

Oh blimey. I never knew! Still, I get to read it now which is the good thing (curses the undergraduate tutor I had on the Russians, who PhD’d in Pushkin and turns pale at the thought of the many clangers I’ve probably dropped over the years and not a soul put me right. Eek.)
I’m alright now thanks.
Can I just say Constance Garnett, and run away screaming?

51. pleite - August 30, 2007

Arabella, I’m not sure who translated the translations I’ve read. I was once reading Crime and Punishment in translation but had to put it down when Raskol’nikov started speaking to me in American English. Too many wrong associations. I poshly switched – probably after a hiatus of 14 years – to the original. (Have I told everyone my claim to fame? How I lived just down the road from where Raskers did the big deed in C&P?)

52. Arabella - August 30, 2007

WTF?! That is so exciting! One of the things I love about rereading C&P is how my feet still ache from all his wretched walking about.
And to read the original – the coolest of the cool.
I had a translation epiphany years ago in the theater, after studying and being in a couple of Chekhov plays. Where was it? The National, the Old Vic? (I mean the theatre, not me!) damn…anyway, it was ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and it was translated and directed/played for the laughs I had no idea were there until that moment.
Now I’m rambling, but that’s so exciting……..just down the road!

53. narrowback - August 31, 2007

ah yes, “little odessa by the sea” aka brighton beach. back when I lived in NYC i’d often visit the neighborhood as it was one of the few remaining true ehtnic enclaves existing at that time.

a lot of the moaning from the locals had to do with either one of two factors or a combination of the two…(1) the arrival of the russian mafia along with other “legitimate” immigrants and (2) the reliance of some of the older immigrants on the social service system (welfare, the dole, etc.) – the combination being that some of the mafia figured out that welfare fraud could be a lucrative enterprise… here in chicago what grumbling there is, is related to the welfare issue.

I don’t think we have any “true believers” in the class tho’ my announcement that the CPUSA was founded in Chicago did result in a buzz of conversation in Russian…there are also a few who have made it clear that they are of an anti-soviet hue. “They pretended to pay us. We pretended to work”

“what makes formerly dodgy areas bloom?” if there was a single pat answer to that, i would have already made a fortune in real estate, retired and have a second home in berlin. here in chicago it really depends on the specific neighborhood – there were/are different causes for different areas…

two now trendy areas – Wicker Park & Bucktown followed the P’berg/F’shain model..cheap rents/funky housing attracts artists and other bohemian types, the area then becomes known as “hip!edgy!” which attracts folks with a little more cash to throw around…next thing you know 30 year old investment banker is throwing around $500k for a 2 bedroom condo. We’ve also had a few neighborhoods like Lakeview aka “Boystown”), Andersonville and Edgewater were the in-migration of gays and lesbians was what sparked the renewal. Other areas like the West Loop and South Loop (the neighborhood I live in) had become wasteland due to the disappearance of manufacturing and the decline of the railroads…they’re literally on the edge of downtown and initially “urban pioneers” were willing to trade off personal security and aesthetics for a reasonably priced central location close to work…they were soon followed by others and eventually there’s sufficient population to make the area seem safe which makes it attractive to more investment.

A general factor has also been a “baby boomer” phenomenon…there’s a lot of suburban folks in the 40 to 60 age range who’s kids have grown up and moved out. They really didn’t like living in the suburbs in the first place but that’s where the “good ” schools were and it was a “safe” place to raise the kids…now the kids are gone and the home they paid $35k for in 1972 was paid off and now worth $250…”honey, we’re selling the ranch home and getting a condo downtown”. I’d say that about 1/2 of the people in my 200+ unit building fall into that category.

Of course the process got a major shot of steroids during the housing boom of 1998-2003 and we’re all waiting to see how it stands up to the bust of the housing market. So far Chicago is doing better than other parts of the country but as the downturn continues and those folks with the dodgy mortgages get foreclosed that could change.

The issue of affordable housing has become a significant one in the last couple of years…Chicago housing isn’t near as expensive as say in NY or San Francisco but folks have been squeezed out of their former neighborhoods as prices rose…and even some of the original gentrifiers have been re-gentrified out of the neighborhood they pioneered. there still are fairly large sections of the city that have been relatively untouched by the renewal wave so there are options there… also the city & community organizations have been actively developing new affordable housing across the city as well including some of the boom areas.

54. emma in barcelona - September 1, 2007

Ah Bib – I hear you! Everytime I arrive at Luton (and it is always bloody Luton) from my chosen new home in a functioning European city, my blood boils and I can´t imagine the horror and fear off the poor non-english speakers who must disapear into ever decreasing cirlces of dispair and bewilderdness. The last time I caught the train from Luton Parkway station I politely asked which platform for Kentish Town, “dunno love” came the reply, “the moniters are down. Just stand on the middle of the bridge and run to whichever platform the train comes to first”. Well really! And I have to do it again next Wednesday *sigh*

It´s always OK though as soon as I arrive at my destination and have had a nice cup of tea, the horror evaporates. Then I begin the business of loving London again.

55. pleite - September 2, 2007

Emma, you still haven’t hijacked him-indoors’ blog. I check in every now and again to see if you’ve squatted him, but, so far, no. Are you tempted? (Mind you, it’ll ruin your life. Let me warn you. I was a fine upstanding citizen before I started blogging. Parish council. A couple of kids. A couple of wives. A car or two. And now look! A destitute homo with a Third World toy boy. Hopeless…) Where were we? Oh yes, Luton. Well, if you are feeling frazzled after the airport, I recommend falling asleep on the train and waking up at Blackfriars to instantly get a glimpse of London’s gorgeosity. (And if you have to get the coach, it stops at Brent Cross. That’s not a million miles from your neck of the woods, is it?)

Narrowback, that’s interesting that couples whose children have flown the nest want to move back into the city. I mean, logical enough, but I’ve never heard of a similar phenomenon elsewhere. And ten out of ten to them for that. Presumably, many a Londoner could do (or have done) likewise, but nature’s force there is still centrifugal (or to a different town altogether (in some cases to do with so-called ‘white flight’, where whites disgruntled at the number of ‘foreigners’ living close by move to Piddle-under-the-Twoddle)). In any case, there are plans for a squillion more new homes in the south-east corner of England over the next however many years, none of which I could afford, so I suppose it’s for my own good that I stay here!

Arabella, just a few houses down. I think the big deed happened at no. 102 (perhaps no. 104) and we lived, I think, at number 94. It was a beautiful place to live. The street (Naberezhnaya Kanala Griboedova – Griboyedov Canal Embankment) was a canal and we were just next to Львиный Мост (Lion Bridge), and it was both central but nicely dilapidated… I struggled to believe Chekhov’s plays were comedies. I’ve never majorly cottoned onto him, though perhaps I should give him another try. I’m afraid those sisters moaning about effing Moscow all the time rather ruined him for me.

56. emma in barcelona - September 3, 2007

Uggh – Brent Cross, I had a Saturday job there and still get the shivers whenever I see it!! And no, I still haven´t quite been persuaded to take up blogging, but you never know. In the meantime I´ll live vicariously through Slaminsky´s and your comments pages. Taking of taking journeys, I am coming to Berlin again at the end of October with my gentleman companion if you fancy a swift half?

57. Arabella - September 3, 2007

Every once in a while I can find a use for a rousing: “But I HAVE no MONEY!”.

Oh Emma, I feel like that about Brent Cross too. Had a job there selling baubles. It was awful. I was terrible. Can’t remember if I was fired before I had time to quit. And then it was a place to hitch hike from London to Birmingham. Yikes, those weren’t the days.

58. emma in barcelona - September 3, 2007

Arabella – I feel your pain, I was stationed in one of Fenwick´s cafes serving vast quantities of baked potatoes and getting frightful burns up my arms from the “rustic” potato oven. We probably passed eachother getting on or off a bus to or from work glassy eyed and foot dragging…

59. narrowback - September 4, 2007

“white flight” was the cause for them to flee (or more accurately their parents to flee) to the burbs in the first place…and a – slightly – reduced level of that fear has contributed to the revitalization of formerly no-go areas

in most other areas of the states the return to the center city has been lead by the “creative class”, yuppies, etc. – all n’ all younger types so far it’s only chicago that I’ve observed such a large wave of aging boomers returning downtown…’tis a natural though. a lot of em lived in the inner city during their college/bohemian days and many of them longed to return

then on the other hand you have folks like my director of public works (sewers n’ streets). we had a meeting with the county authorities on wednesday and after the meeting I took him to chinatown (close in the the center of the city & the county offices) we went by subway (u-bahn) and 1/2 way through the trip tunred to me and said “wow, this is the first subway I’ve ever taken” … 54 years old and a suburban chicago resident for his entire life.

60. William Thirteen - September 4, 2007

thank you bib – i now have another colorful expression to use at those most belabored of moments. “oh bugger fuck!” by the way, have you ever read anything by Baron Corvo? somehow you brought him to mind…

61. pleite - September 5, 2007

William, I haven’t. Do you recommend him? I’ve had a bit of a google and wiki around and he looks an interesting chap. I looked for something by him yesterday in a bookshop on Schönhauser Allee but of course there was nothing. If I’m feeling brave, I’ll get onto Amazon or save him for my next trip to the UK. Am considering tackling some Houellebecq in the meantime. Have you indulged? I could imagine him being very much up your alley.

Narrowback, how odd! Sometimes I think my mother doesn’t know London at all, but she certainly has used the trains (even if she’s half-scared of them). I DO remember one silly young lady I knew vaguely whose parents had oodles of cash and lavished it on her. We once went to a party and for some reason she decided she wouldn’t drive but would take public transport instead. And she moaned about it the whole party, which, not surprisingly, didn’t exactly ingratiate her with the other party-goers. “All those working-class people. And it was so dirty!”

Emma, swift half? Bloody hell. More than that. What about some slow wholes? Several of them. I’ve given up smoking, alas, but will hopefully have started again by then. And what are you thinking of accommodation-wise?

And Arabella (and Emma again), bad luck on the Brent Cross jobs. It appears to have been the fate of many a young lady. My sisters had Saturday jobs there too. They despised them, naturally. BC reminds me of depressing trips to buy something special, like a suit for some wedding or other. Can there be anything worse than, at 14, having to shop for a suit? In Brent Cross? Well, there can, and is, of course. But god it was horrible. Hitchhiking to Brum sounds fun though!

62. William Thirteen - September 7, 2007

Rolfe (Baron Corvo) makes me think of Denton Welch with a personality disorder. i ran into him while doing some research on Venice. i would recommend him, if only because Auden called him a “master of vituperation”. Symons biography is worth reading as well. haven’t read Houellebecq but the thought has occurred to me.

63. pleite - September 7, 2007

William, I’m just about to undertake La Possibilité d’une île, which looked a bit dispiritingly long at almost 500 pages, and a foreign language and all that, but it instantly got me gripped. And all thanks, apparently, to an encounter with a journalist in Berlin.

Thank you for your tips. I’ll tie a knot in my kerchief.

64. William Thirteen - September 8, 2007

are you reading it in the original french? hmmm….i suppose i should read something of his. i tend to distrust popular nihilism, preferring my homebrew. i suppose in the end it all depends on presentation!

65. pleite - September 12, 2007

William, I am. Well, of course, it’s hard to predict what others will like, but if you like a writer who loathes and has utter contempt for humanity, and who can be funny with it, then he could be for you.

66. William Thirteen - September 13, 2007

jeezus, how civilized you are – original french indeed! i suspect you have an unusually large language lobe in the old bean. meanwhile your description of his abilities has me reaching for the wallet. loathing and contempt with an admixture of funny is just the sort of swill i gobble down. i will pencil him in.

67. pleite - September 15, 2007

I think I’ve drunk most of my old bean away, and after my initial enthusiasm am struggling to pick the book back up. The recommendation still stands though.


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