Everything smells of parting. I am walking through London’s streets with the same passion I walked through them when I came here but can’t help thinking: For how long am I going through these streets? Is this the end of an unrequited love to a city that has been inspiring but never very welcoming? A city that has put every stumbling block in my way possible? That kept me thinking from the beginning: Can I stay here? Will I find a way of living? And has never had an easy answer to these questions.
And if I leave, will I find the same in other cities’ streets? A man, walking through an urban forest with a guitar just like Bob Dylan? And this is just one example…
This is Kentish Town. This is where I live. Just to the left is Kentish Town tube station; the only station I know which has been decorated with artificial cactuses inside giving it an awkward-cute touch. Next to the station is a shelter with seats underneath on which you usually find people sitting without obvious reason, killing their time, staring into nowhere. At night semi-dodgy blokes hang around whenever there is a gig in the nearby HMV Forum, crying out the name of the band playing, trying to sell tickets. Opposite is a haberdashery shop, a wonderful shop with corners and niches in which you can find all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable little things if only you are interested in needlework; one of those shops that miraculously survives the fact that hardly any article costs more than a few pennies or pounds and few people come to buy. – There is absolutely nothing special about Kentish Town High Road, except perhaps that it leads down to Camden which enjoys the youth from around the world attracted by hundreds of shops selling clothes in alternative style. So at least, Kentish Town is spared hordes of excited, noisy teenagers looking out for cool London…
When I came to London I was working in a London West End theatre as a bar maid. The bar had huge windows to Shaftesbury Avenue and Chinatown from which I could watch Soho’s colourful mixture of people passing buy. At times there were Chinese lanterns put up and every Saturday afternoon a group of singing Hare Krishna people was walking down the street.
I was working with a pretty, long-haired girl from Spain who struggled to speak English but we very much warmed up to each other. One day she put her earplugs in my ears and played Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane. I was totally unprepared for the wave of emotions the song triggered. This was one of the happiest moments in my life. I still could cry about the lyrics.
Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet
After having just become a victim of capitalist logic, I thought it would be a good idea to join the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protests yesterday. Admittedly, I rather joined as an observer than a genuine demonstrator; not because I would have doubted the protests’ objectives and demands but because I would have doubted the shape “demonstration” in which they were expressed. So I overheard intellectual discussions which talked about the need to “awaken people” who would have been blinded by the media and thought whether such speech wasn’t patronising. I saw an old man in a wheelchair playing working class songs on a fiddle in front of a row of police men and thought it was almost cliché. How difficult to express anger! What a sense of helplessness how to do so and how to initiate the change people were demanding. Still, how good to know the people out there – not just here in London. I might go again.
On my daily morning walk to Tufnell Park tube station I pass through an old narrow street which leads to a social housing unit showing some architectural eccentricities; a couple of oddly shaped conservatories, inwardly even more oddly designed are stringed together in however quite a charming and little metropolitan way. Passing by, I always encounter the same people. There is a blond woman, slightly aged but still strikingly attractive and stylishly dressed, leading a blond boy on her one hand, in the other a pushchair containing a girl; she appears to be stressed and over-worked. There is this woman with the slightly bloated face, looking somehow miserable but not disillusioned as if hoping for better to come. I miss the teenage girl I used to see who was always on her mobile, a gruff, swearing girl of a similar type like the main character in the film Fish Tank; I later saw her in a nurse uniform and was somehow relieved so as if one didn’t need to worry about her anymore. But of all my morning ‘acquaintances’ I like most a father and his little son cycling by. They speak Spanish, and they would often speak with each other, entertaining stuff as it looks, and sometimes they laugh with each other, the father in all his mildness, the son with a bright little voice, the father on the front seat, the son on the back seat. They convey this warm feeling of an intact family in which everyone seems to be protected against the evil of the world.
She’s a model and she’s looking good / I’d like to take her home that’s understood / She plays hard to get, she smiles from time to time / It only takes a camera to change her mind / She’s posing for consumer products now and then / For every camera she gives the best she can / I saw her on the cover of a magazine / Now she’s a big success, I want to meet her again. Kraftwerk: The Model