London Reverse Diaries II - Day 8
Day 8 – Sunday 21st of July
At seven o’clock in the morning the phone alarm rang, I said to myself: “this is my lazy day!” went back to bed and got up two hours later.
Queue for the breakfast. The hotel is full of tourists and it is Sunday for them too: in front of me a group of Chinese, a French family, one boy, one girl, the man knows exactly what to do for the day, they will head towards Hyde Park, then Portobello market. He says: “it’s the greatest music market”. I wonder: is it really? It has the reputation of being the largest antique market. I should have a look. It reminds me of previous visits done on lazy Sundays to Camden Market with Marie and Clara, in the north of London, feel the impulse of telling something to the man: “vos enfants vont adorer Camden Market”. The waiters were surprised to see me. The typical businessman leaves on Saturday; my longer stay makes me already a recognizable character. I am thinking to the conversation I had the previous evening with “Julien”, the French waiter at “Mulberry’s”, the informal restaurant at the lower-ground floor. All these workers in their standard uniform made of black pant, white shirt, tie for the boys and girls, embroidered waistcoat, being drilled to smile, welcome the guests with a loudly “how are you going this morning Sir?” then without waiting for your answer replying “Good!” keeping an eye on the buffet, clearing the tables, wiping the surface from any bread crumbs left by the previous guest, asking ceremoniously “tea or coffee?” are paid at the minimum, surviving monthly wage slightly above one thousand British Pounds (to be precise, 1087£ which converts at current exchange rates to 1264€. In France, the minimum wage is of 1430€). These handsome girls and boys dressed for a ceremony but wearing their worker’s dress, smiling, clean and polite, are today’s one of the faces of modern Marxist proletariat, low-skilled workers, willing to survive in a ferocious capitalist society. Put a note in the background of my head: I should read someday the investigation of Barbara Ehrenreich “Nickel & Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA” which made the headlines when it was first published in 2004 and also Richard Sennett’s “The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism” in relation to my studies on burnout.
13:35 on my way ... Tracking Doctor Septimus' evil doings ... Tavistock... Hatchard's ... British Museum ... British Library... Should be able to find a clue to the mystery of the Yellow Mark... In a cab, the Indian driver reminds me of Nasir... Happy people outside... Not aware what is coming? A perfect chaos... Good will prevail!
In the footsteps of Doctor Septimus, at Hatchard’s, browsing through business and history books, buying Charles Emmerson’s “1913: The World before the Great War”, that was a century ago. How did it feel living in one of the cities before the tempest? In this book we travel with Emmerson in a round world trip from the “Centre of the Universe” (London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, St Petersburg), to “The Old New World” (Washington DC, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Mexico City) then to “The World Beyond” (Winnipeg – Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Algiers, Bombay-Durban, Tehran, Jerusalem), and finally to “Twilight Powers” (Constantinople, Peking-Shanghai, Tokyo, London again).
It felt exactly as day-to-day business, normal life; no clue of the coming storm, the “black swan” of low-probability, highest impact. One century later historians still struggle to explain the origins of the war, was it inevitable? they ask, was there another route possible? Nobody is able to predict tomorrow. No lessons can be learned in a forward-looking way from the past, history helps explain the past, within some limits, but doesn’t help to prevent any future of coming to terms with our reality, in the most brutal and unexpected way. This is a depressing thought.
St-James Park: sitting on a bench, eating ice cream. Getting into a Facebook conversation with Sylvie about Doctor Septimus (a character created by Edgar P. Jacobs, Belgian author of the classical series "Blake & Mortimer". In the album "La Marque Jaune" (1956), the heroes, Captain Francis Blake from the MI5 and Professor Philip Mortimer, fight the evil schemes of a subtle enemy in central London).
Westminster Bridge, Southbank, crowds.
British Film Institute: cooling... too much people outside on the South Bank, what a hell to find a place to sit and drink a decent pint to replenish your zone of comfort. But now here I am at the BFI, very nice place, and as you might expect the Lounge Bar is almost empty except for a few movie aficionados. Good time to reflect, read, think, resting, writing and posting my last postcards on Facebook. See Day 1, 14th July post for the seed of this ‘Facebook Postcard’ concept.
Improvising a dialogue
- Christo, tell us, what do you prefer most in life? Really, speak with your heart, nobody is listening except the two of us (smiling).
- Yeah... you know... I've a kind of a top-three items in mind, keep notice however that the priorities change from time to time, a bit in random, (understand, following my mood swings or some bizarre things I cannot explain), but here we are....
- Yes, we're listening.
- People, Cats, Books (including Music and Films).
- Oh! That’s it!
- Yes, those are the basics (or top items on my life agenda if you prefer).
- I'm afraid Christo this is a bit too vague… people... too vague... cats... well... at least it is specific to a species, a kind of pet... books (including music and movies)... also too broad in scope don't you think so?
- No, this is very specific, by books I really mean the physical stuff of life, which is embedded in books, do you understand? Everything we know about life, the universe, and everything else comes from books, including love, hope and discoveries.
- What about personal experiences, the kind you learn by yourself, not from books?
- They come from people obviously, who are a great source of learning... life is an experiment in evolutionary learning... we learn from each other... but at the end of the day, someone translates this experience into a book, which are our most valuable assets. I believe each human being should possess a decent library in his or her home...
- Ok, ok Christo... hmm... what about people? And Cats? Yes, why cats?
- After everything has been lost (I mean, trust in people and genuine beliefs about the value of culture and books where you'd like to burn all libraries because they're just lying), Cats are the only source of comfort which remains... so, sometimes... cats top the list... not quite often... but it happens.
- Well... I see... this is a bit frightening... hopefully as you said, it doesn't happen quite often.
- I've come to believe the ups and downs of your owns life self-awareness and presence are necessary to the evolution of the self... so I'm welcoming them... but indeed, it opens up quite a complex and uncertain perspective on how to handle your file. And there is a price to pay because it doesn't happen only in your brain but it changes the way you act, for real, do you understand? And it gets you in trouble, sometimes in big trouble.
- What do you mean by that Christo?
- I'll explain this part next time.
- Okay, something else to add?
- No, that was good to speak with you. Hope we'll meet soon.
- Whenever and wherever you want. Was happy to chat. We'll see at the BFI maybe next time?
- Any place, which fits with a cool atmosphere, Wi-Fi connection and a memory to share about books, music, or films indeed.
- Thank you. We go back now to our regular programs. Would you have some music suggestion maybe, Christo?
- Let's play "Take Five" from Dave Brubeck.
- Good idea... okay... it's airing... Bye for now.
Tate Modern: encounter with a performing poet in the banks of the river, Ian McLachlan, author of “Confronting the Danger of Art” (Sidekick Books, 2011), an ironic booklet imitating the style of public information leaflets distributed during the cold war in population to explain how to “confront the danger of atomic bomb”.
This booklet addresses
the danger of Art,
how to make your
home and family
safe from it.
Read this booklet
with care. Your life
and the lives of
may depend on it.
Do as it advises.
Keep it safely to hand.
Discussed with Ian over performing poetry, Maelstrom publishing house in Brussels, organizing a poetry event in London next year ‘to avert a new Global War coming’, with Belgian, French, Canadian and British artists. Crazy idea.
Millennium Bridge: sunset on Thames River. What a beautiful day. This is nearly the End. Tomorrow, back to the continent.
A silver Shard rising by the Moon, the twilight zone I can feel, calling beyond the river, to the seas of every atom in my heart. Am I here? Am I real?
Took a cab at St Paul’s, short ride through the City, Fleet Street, desert on a Sunday evening. At the hotel, discussion with Natalia, the Polish front desk manager, she has so beautiful green eyes. Dinner menu:
Pan Fried South Coast Scallops (on a Bed of Spring Carrot Puree Flavoured with Cumin and Pistachio Nuts),
8oz (8 ounces) Herefordshire Sirloin Steak (rare, with Sauce Hollandaise), 8oz in Grams is equivalent to 226.796 grams
Large glass of Pinot Noir.
Next episode in reverse order: Day 7 - Saturday 20th of July
Credits: The Shard from Millennium Bridge , the author