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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Personal pleasure dome

Stopping, a tube train groans, squeals, hisses. London's inhuman voice is proof you're away from home.

In my teens I went there for solitary holidays, coming upon oddities. The umbrella shop with arboreal signage, a shaving brush big as a cauliflower in Jermyn Street, a dusty Charing Cross Road window with condoms and enema equipment, Zwemmers art books (What a name!), Lisle Street's war surplus electronics, prostitutes in Park Lane who knew I lacked the money and the recklessness, whole massive fish at Harrods food hall, El Pais and Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung on sale in Soho.

Walked miles on pavements where good-looking young women passed by, always frowning. Would have loved to... just talk. But I was scruffy and my hair schoolboy-cut.

Diversions. John Gielgud in Coward's Nude With Violin, Ralph Richardson in Graham Greene's The Complaisant Lover, Dorothy Tutin in I Am A Camera, Maria Schell breaking my heart in the movie Gervaise, continuous news and cartoons at a cinema on Oxford Street (name forgotten), Otto Klemperer conducting the Phil in LvB.

I ate unadventurously, always with a book. A dirty, inauthentic Chinese on Denmark Street, the centre of Tin Pan Alley which later became the pop industry. Steak and kidney pudding at Lyon's Corner House on The Strand.

Some day, I told myself, I'll work here. I'll be part of it instead of looking in, yearning. That happened and some of the magic wore off. But then we moved away and the magic stole back. We're off there later today: quartets at the Festival Hall, Ice Age art at the British Museum. A couple of days as part of the uncaring crowd. London: unhealthy but fascinating.

I'm in pain with gout but knowing how to use the buses will help.   

3 comments:

Rouchswalwe said...

When I think of a big city, I think of Frankfurt a/M. Now that I'm older, I realize how small it really was - is - compared to Tokio, New York, and probably London.

Joe Hyam said...

We could not have met then but I too clung to a book when eating alone in a restaurant. Many of your images resonate : the umbrella shop, the fish slab at Harrods, the titles of those West End plays, Zwemmers, Lyons Corner House and many more. Digging into the memory bank I could if there were time drum them up each opening a door on others, very Proustian. Suddenly I can' t help thinking about that time in London. It was of course a different town. It seemed smaller and more manageable.

Lucy said...

What a lovely bit of writing. Hope you have/had a wonderful trip.