Monday, October 27, 2008

Vermeer-ish

It was the kind of London day when the weather seems to leak over from Amsterdam: big dramatic white clouds, with gray undersides, scuttling along quickly in cool dryish air, and the light somehow both very clear (picking out every detail on the buildings, especially when they're in the sun) and soft at once. It's exactly the kind of sky on those big Dutch pastoral scenes by Ruysdael, the ones with flat fields and bits of woods and clusters of cows under the big sky. And the same as in Vermeer's street scene in Delft, this light that's so paradoxically precise and kindly at once.

I had lunch at Villandry (like Dean & DeLucca with tables) with Robin Robertson, a wonderful Scots poet and my editor over here, and Fiona Sampson, a poet whose work is new to me and the editor of Poetry Review, and Hannah Ross, my publicist at Jonathan Cape. I got an earful of good gossip on British poetry, and then went to the Soho Gym in Covent Garden, which is a world center of beauty -- a high concentration of breathtaking fellows. I wandered around some Covent Garden stores before bravely (I thought) coming home on the bus. What is it about taking the bus in a strange town? Always that slight anxiety that it might go God knows where, and you wouldn't know where (or even how) to get off, or that everybody in the world but you knows how to pay the fare and what kind of ticket you need. Nobody tells you; people who ride the bus are supposed to know already. I confess I have never been on a bus in NYC in my whole life, and here I am riding from Trafalgar Square to Westminster to Pimlico.

4 comments:

Jack Albrecht said...

Mark:
Enjoy your time in Europe. Charles and I used to go to Brussels at Christmastime every year, he to do research, I just for vacation. I think that the bus anxiety thing is even more so when one is in a non-English-speaking country. In Brussels, I was always concerned that I would take a bus that would take me to God-knows-where. Odd, because I have always enjoyed walking and sometimes getting lost in a strange city. And, also odd, because I speak French. Perhaps it's a control issue - one has little control on a bus. Well, one can get off the bus, if one knows how! ;-)

jayme said...

i know that anxiety well. i had a train ride in france that took me god-knows-where. actually, it took me to the border of france and belgium. by missing my flight i got an extra night in paris, however.

Collin Kelley said...

I'd never taken a bus in London until about two years ago. I went from Camberwell all the way to Bloomsbury at dusk and it was one of the most beautiful trips across the city. I highly recommend the buses in London.

Have you been to Foyles yet?

rams said...

I thought it was only me. A Chicago bus driver snapped at me and I still bear the scars.