vendredi 25 février 2011

Not even the rain has such small hands

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The first thing I noticed were the conversations in the underground, opening my ears as if I was hearing English for the first time. Such different rhythms and sounds that I found it difficult to concentrate on my book. Shortly after, the carriage was filled with the smell of chips as schoolboys in navy uniforms climbed on board. I try to imagine myself as a commuter making this journey every day, stopping off at Waitrose on the way home to pick up crumpets, semi-skimmed milk and take advantage of the 3 for 2 offers but I can't. I feel like an alien, hesitating at every crossing to work out which direction the traffic is coming from, then realising I've missed my chance and deciding it's better in any case to wait for the green man. My compatriots give me strange looks and probably take me for a tourist. When I finally arrive though it's comforting to see familiar faces. The evening was mild and tinted blue with the twilight. I couldn't face being squashed like a sardine in the rush hour to Piccadilly Circus so decided to go as far as Russell Square and visit the London Review bookshop. For more than an hour, I wandered between floors and different bookshelves, sitting in a corner with a pile of books at my side to make the difficult decision what to choose before opting for Truman Capote letters, the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler, once lent to me by Chrissi but which I somehow never managed to finish. Watching a couple of episodes of Friends later that evening left me with the impression of being in a timewarp; suddenly I was back at school where all the boys drooled over pictures of Jennifer Aniston and the girls wanted her haircut. I felt nostalgic for Friday nights when I was allowed to stay up later and watched American comedy series.

The days that followed were generally grey and covered by a fine curtain of drizzle. I decided to revisit the National Gallery, taking pride in being one of the first visitors that day as we waited patiently for the doors to open. I can never go inside a gallery without thinking of Thomas Bernhard's Alte Meister, one of first books I read in German and picture Reger and Atzbacher sitting on the leather chairs discussing music and literature while the attendant, Irrsigler, closes off the rooms for them when they want to be alone and they observe the groups in guided tours with contempt. I rediscovered the skyline on the river and the Southbank, perhaps my favourite place of all where the secondhand booksellers set out their tables under Waterloo bridge. I dreamt of days spent in the cinemas of the BFI to see the whole Truffaut or Howard Hawks seasons or evenings at the National Theatre, where Danny Boyle's Frankenstein is playing, or at the Festival Hall where I heard Mozart and Mahler. There was a walk alongside it on Sunday morning in Walton-on-Thames and coffee and cake at Carluccio's before getting ready to leave but perhaps the best part was seeing the lights of the city with their blue and gold tones reflected in the water when outside all was calm. I wondered if I will ever be able to grasp London with its changing faces.

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Evening falls on Russell Square

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New Boris bikes

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Presumably they also clean teddy bears

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Bedtime reading

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On Trafalgur Square

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At the Royal Adademy

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La Nuit Américaine as part of the Truffaut season

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The Dulwich picture gallery

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Exploring the ground in the rain

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At the Festival Hall

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The graveyard in Walton-on-Thames

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A Sunday walk by the Thames

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Stopping for coffee and cake at Carluccio's

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24 commentaires:

  1. I love your pictures! You always capture the feeling of places and it always makes me want to go there to recapture that feeling, whether it's a city or a shot or a museum! And of course I always crave more pictures and more feelings like that!
    Thanks for this! And for the images of spring!

  2. one of my favorite posts of the year. wonderful ... thank you these great photos and for sharing your visit back to England.

    look forward to the next one.

    btw, i wrote about "books" in a post that perhaps you'll appreciate (actually, it's the library part that perhaps you'll appreciate).

    i'm working through a series on Eleven in '11.

  3. It looks like you had a great time in London! Your pictures are so dreamy. Spring is here. I love those cupcakes and the lemon tartlet.



  4. Oh those are lovely. I'll have to read the whole thing later but I also love the e.e. cummings title...xo

  5. That "Keep Calm and..." thing really took off didn't it? I've seen so many variations of it. Happy to see a few blossoms and even better, yellow flowers! There are a few here too, we've turned a corner...I'm dreaming of open toed shoes, heh. I've got Fridays off now so I'm thinking of getting this thing called a Sparscheine which means I can catch any local train for a set price all the way to Berlin ^_^

  6. @Kat - Aw thanks! It'll be even better going for walks together and taking pictures, then we can compare them afterwards. I really hope spring is on its way here, today we even have temperatures above zero.
    @Jg - It's lovely to hear that and I'm intrigued by your book post which I'll defintely check out later.
    @Rosa - I'm now really keen to try out my own tartlets and also to catch up on your blog and see those spring images.
    @Susan - It's one of my favourite poems which I discovered through Hannah and her Sisters. With all the rain and the flowers in Britain, it seemed appropriate.
    @Sasa - Yep, I first saw that motto in a bookshop a couple of years back and now it's simply everywhere. Still, I think it suits the British mentality. Open toed shoes, wow, I'm still thinking winter coat, boots and scarf. Friday would be a good day since I don't work in the afternoon and it's so much nicer coming by train I think.

  7. I love the title! E.E. Cumming, quoted by Woody Allen in "Hanna and her sisters", one of my favorite films!

    Mmmmh that lemon pie... each time you write about London, I wonder why I don't like this city because you make it look so fantastic...

    All those cakes, those cups, those flowers! It reminds me of tea times in Devonshire at my uncle and aunt's beautiful house, looking at the sheep as they grazed in the green and white landscape...

    I had the feeling I was a Jane Austen heroine. Everything smelled like roses (the sheet, the soap, the cushions on the big, comfortable sofa, the kitchen even!) and since then, I only wear perfumes with rose scent...

  8. J'aime bien cette atmosphère de musée calme et suranné, on voit presque le silence de la contemplation !

  9. I remember when one used to go to museums and there would be so few people in the room that you could breath the art in... peacefully.

    Now, almost everywhere you go there is a crush and a din. I miss that time alone with art. I remember once I was at the V&A on my last day in London and the Tudor exhibit was closed. I told one of the nice ladies there I was sad I couldn't see it and she let me sneak in all by myself... it was amazing. The great bed of Ware was all mine for 1/2 an hour... I got lost in the carvings.

    It sounds like you made the most of your trip and drank the city in wonderfully... and of course shared it with us so very well... as is your way.

  10. Now that I don't live in London any more, I can 'see' how London it looks, captured particularly well with your photographs.
    I have the 'Keep Calm and Carry On" T-shirt to sleep in and the "Now Freak Out" coffee cup for the morning.
    Oh and I so miss Waitrose!

  11. I really enjoyed reading your travel observations and relating to that feeling of noticing the way the simple day-to-day activities in a new space differ and seem magnified compared to what we've grown used to at home. I am captivated by your blue evening on Russell Square images.

  12. @Manon - Cool that you also like that movie because it's defintely one of my favourites. I have a love hate relationship with London. I love all the great cultural things you can do there, especially the museums which are free and also the fact that it's so internatioal. I hate the fact that it's so overpriced and rather elitist so that I always come away thinking that I'm not really good enough. It was lovely to come back to Berlin on Sunday night when it was so quiet and I felt such a sense of freedom. In a way it makes me sad to know that I could never love London in the same way and I hate to think of Berlin becoming more like it. Thanks for these lovely memories of England, I can defintely picture you in a Jane Austen novel!
    @Rose - Le musée est petit mais un vrai bijou et c'est vrai que les gens ont mis beaucoup de temps à regarder des peintures. J'étais étonnée qu'on puisse y faire des photos car normalement c'est interdit aux galeries.
    @Deana - I share your dislike of crowds in museums and quite frankly, often don't even bother trying to look at the art when it's like that. I don't like audioguides either for that reason because they encourage people to stand in groups around the same things and not think for themselves anymore. How charming that time in the V&A must have been, I've often dreamed of sneaking in places after closing and having them all to myself.
    @Suzy - Oh thanks, I take that as a great compliment when a Londoner likes the way I've captured their city. There'S so much to see and do there. I love your T-shirt and mug and yes, Waitrose is amazing. Sometimes I miss being able just to pop in one supermarket here in order to pick up all these different kinds of food instead of having to shop in 3 or 4 different ones. Naja.
    @Denise - It's true this feeling that you describe and it's even stranger when it happens in your home country with the culture you understand so well but that's what makes travel so great. The blue evening was one of the loveliest ever so mild and with light shining from the windows as if reflecting sunshine.

  13. It's so strange coming to grips with another language after you're used to another one. The same feeling happens to me when I visit Israel - suddenly there's no English, but Hebrew.

    I love these photos, they make me feel nostalgic.

  14. Non ho avuto mai la fortuna di visitarla e dalle tue splendide immagini dev'essere bellissima!
    Un abbraccio

  15. It all sounds so wonderful. I especially love that first photo as I too love peaking into people's windows as I pass by:)

  16. Wonderful photos! I especially love the blue tones in the first 4-5 photos and the flower close-ups. But honestly, all of your photos are lovely!

  17. @Hila - What's even stranger is when I can't quite catch what people are saying around me or someone comes up to me to ask something and I don't understand. I'm glad I'm not the only one with this experience.
    @Marifra79 - Grazie! I can't read some Italian but not write it so I'll answer you in English. Your comment made me smile last night and it's lovely to hear that. I hope you'll make it to London one day, xoxo.
    @Christine - Ooh, that's one of the things I love to do too, especially in the twilight. It makes me dream of other lives and having an apartment like that.
    @Orchid - Thanks so much, it's a great compliment from a talented photographer like yourself.

  18. I love how you composed the museum shots. The depth (the arches with the people from room to room), geometry (the man with the paper—he looks to be a part of the installation) and symmetry (my eyes are drawn to the space between the dresser and the chair) inspire me.

  19. Wow, the Dulwich picture gallery looks fantastic.

  20. @Design elements - Thanks.
    @Tracy - I'm really pleased you think that because I'm not so used to taking pictures of interiors, especially art galleries. I don't see much point in taking photos of paintings because they never look so good but the people in there are fascinating.
    @Des - I bet you'd love it there.

  21. Loved this post, Vanessa! You write so beautifully and memories popped up all over the place while reading. Grey, drizzle, museums, and how brilliant of you to mention the Dulwich picture gallery! One of my favorites. So many visitors don't see it (or even know about it) because it is a bit out of the way, but so worth the trip.
    Also am pleased you and JG have discovered each other. I tried to introduce you a while back. You'll love reading him and vice versa!

  22. Keep calm and drink up :)

    You are a great visual storyteller; enjoyed your thoughts as well.

  23. Beautiful photos! I love your photos of the Dulwich in the rain, those grounds are wonderful. And, Carlucios is one of my favourites! Lovely blog.