Friday, 30 December 2011
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
barely getting by,
no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
bones hunger home.
Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
old songs and tales.
What we ate—who ate what—
how we all prevailed.
Sunday, 25 December 2011
Song for Nobody
A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.
(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)
A golden heaven
Sings by itself
Friday, 23 December 2011
ladies, for you are all ladies, as the good doctor says, beware the 'danger of serious bodily illness due to excessive straining' especially, i would infer, if you are not in the flower of life.
and for all of us, take a moment to raise our eyes up from the bars, 'ashen faced and haggard' and let a smile for the world at this festive time cresses the rigours of your 'bicycle face'. and do not, whatever, give in to the 'delerium of swiftness' however much you may be tempted and consider that perhaps it is time to be at the fireside sharpening a pencil, enjoying the putting down of thoughts of reflection on the passing year and perhaps a small glass of sherry.
all of which is sound medical advice so have a care.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
To Alexander Graham
Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.
We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock.
I smelt the tar and the ropes.
It seemed that I was standing
Beside the big iron cannon
The tugs used to tie up to
When I was a boy. I turned
To see Dad standing just
Across the causeway under
That one lamp they keep on.
He recognised me immediately.
I could see that. He was
The handsome, same age
With his good brows as when
He would take me on Sundays
Saying we’ll go for a walk.
Dad, what am I doing here?
What is it I am doing now?
Are you proud of me?
Going away, I knew
You wanted to tell me something.
You stopped and almost turned back
To say something. My father,
I try to be the best
In you you give me always.
Lying asleep turning
Round in the quay-lit dark
It was my father standing
As real as life. I smelt
The quay’s tar and the ropes.
I think he wanted to speak.
But the dream had no sound.
I think I must have loved him.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
The Yellowhammer’s Nest
Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,
Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down
To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop
And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,
'Tis scarcely deep enough a bee to drown,
So it sings harmless o'er its pebbly bed
—Ay here it is, stuck close beside the bank
Beneath the bunch of grass that spindles rank
Its husk seeds tall and high—'tis rudely planned
Of bleachèd stubbles and the withered fare
That last year's harvest left upon the land,
Lined thinly with the horse's sable hair.
Five eggs, pen-scribbled o'er with ink their shells
Resembling writing scrawls which fancy reads
As nature's poesy and pastoral spells—
They are the yellowhammer's and she dwells
Most poet-like where brooks and flowery weeds
As sweet as Castaly to fancy seems
And that old molehill like as Parnass' hill
On which her partner haply sits and dreams
O'er all her joys of song—so leave it still
A happy home of sunshine, flowers and streams.
Yet in the sweetest places cometh ill,
A noisome weed that burthens every soil;
For snakes are known with chill and deadly coil
To watch such nests and seize the helpless young,
And like as though the plague became a guest,
Leaving a houseless home, a ruined nest—
And mournful hath the little warblers sung
When such like woes hath rent its little breast.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
The Working Self
the naked man with the briefcase
descending three flights of lighthouse stairs
his neckmuscles held by a hatstand of stress
and a new version of the Inferno blackening his cerebellum
in which the only dead are his poetic texts
and those of all the writers he has ever loved
wanting to be asleep with all the fervour of the truly middle-aged
the naked man running into
the midnight sea at Teignmouth
wiht the surprisingly large breasted girl
he will not sleep wiht later in the sand
all the car-loads of friends all following The Wedding Present
from gig to gi allstoned and half-undressed and
sleepily silenusian in the cold cupping sand
the student standing with a white furred uvula in
the campanile of his newly-smoking throat
before the galvanised facade of Milan cathedral
on his first morning in Italy, before visiting the Brera, the Uffizi,
focusing on the lens as it falls from his spectacles and smashes
on the delicious pasticeria of the paving stones
the seventeen year old staring at Rossetti’s
loganberry compote of a dream of Dante and the corpse of Beatrice
remembering the final cold corner bust up by the bridge
by the Post Office where he stood for hours knowing
she would never feel the need to come back
not knowing that he would never speak to her again or know
her whereabouts or children or the moment of her death
the boy visiting a grandfather
he hadn’t seen so long he almost had begun
to think of him as dead and dreamed about it endlessly
after the rapidly-following death
the slow hand touching the bandaged throat, the querulous witty voice
the dark, conspiratorial spectacles, always
not dead after all but still with him, talking
the boy who dreamt that all his classmates sat in darkness in
a circle and the circle was so large it seemed to contain
all the people of the multis at Trottick, all the people in Dundee
perhaps all the people in Scotland and in the centre was a figure,
cowled like a monk, roating in the darkness with an index finger
pointing and revolving like a planet in an orrery
and when the figure pointed straight at him
woke up in the dark moon-streaked fourth-floor bedroom for the first time
Thursday, 15 December 2011
For years now you have been my love,
The vertigo I feel when I lie waiting
That nothing can make old, make cold;
Even that which was expecting our death,
Or geadually knew how to combat us,
Even that which we are strangers to,
My eclipses also and also my returns.
Barred like a boxwood shutter,
An extreme and compact fortune
Is our mountain range,
Our compressing splendour.
I say fortune, o my wrought one;
Each of us can receive
Anther’s share of mystery
Without spilling its secret;
And the suffering that comes from elsewhere
Finds at last its separation
In the flesh of our untiy,
Finds at last its solar road
At the center of our dense cloud
Which it tears and recommences.
I say fortune the way I feel it.
You have raised the summit
That my waiting will have to cross
When tomorrow is no longer there
Monday, 12 December 2011
Faith is in you whenever you look
At a dewdrop or a floating leaf
And know that they are because they have to be.
Even if you close your eyes and dream up things
The world will remain as it has always been
And the leaf will be carried by the waters fo the river.
You have faith also when you hurt your foot
Against a sharp rock and you know
that rocks are here to hurt our feet.
See the long shadow that is cast by the tree?
We and the flowers throw shadows on the earth.
What has no shadow has no strength to live
trans by author
Friday, 9 December 2011
Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat,
only thou and I, and never a soul in the world would know of this our
pilgrimage to no country and to no end.
In that shoreless ocean,
at thy silently listening smile my songs would swell in melodies,
free as waves, free from all bondage of words.
Is the time not come yet?
Are there works still to do?
Lo, the evening has come down upon the shore
and in the fading light the seabirds come flying to their nests.
Who knows when the chains will be off,
and the boat, like the last glimmer of sunset,
vanish into the night?
trans by the author
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
I was four months gone -
my breasts already tender
against the bell-ropes;
we were ringing quarter-peals,
the sun flooding the bell-chamber,
the dust rippling between the joists
when the child quickened,
fluttered against the changes;
and suddenly through the clerestory
I saw that colder quickening -
random - reciprocal -
and the flaxfield
like water under the wind.
Monday, 5 December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Sunday, 30 October 2011
After all I remember perfectly the day
when my seven mothers birthed me
(among them one, uniquely primordial,
knew the joys of conception
one who no longer knew how to read or write
her octogenarian arms rocking me
as the four-eyed cat of death
nestled on her shoulders
I worked hard to be lighter
The other six mothers sang
transfigured by labor pains
I slept serenely in each of them
slept cowering in their thighs their knees
slept purely in their maternal purity
bread, milk and honey close by
and memories of Amsterdam
the world fashioned peacefully all around
on the fourth day waters a world with fish and reeds
with the man from the Hotel Alger who lost his mouth on the sixth day
a world of suns and snows on the ninth day
but my octogenarian mother’s arms were tired
(the cat around her shoulders purring scarcely audible)
and I wanted to be lighter
Then I sat by the fire
sitting in my geomantic suit
slowly shaking a hazelnut switch
right there by the fire trying to be lighter
The other five mothers fell silent
aggrieved by my unexpected gesture
Why–I asked them–do you look at me so
My old mother’s arms exhausted
and I wanted to be lighter
would have gone to sleep in an apple
but I didn’t want to complicate your perpetual maternity
They shook their heads in remonstrance
and closed themselves off to me
Then on the tenth day
dogs started to bark
and witnesses crept into the room.
trans by martin woodside and chris tanasescu
see more of their translations here
Friday, 28 October 2011
today sees a lazarus out on kindle and there will be more publishing to come soon. i'd say more but i've said it already. check it out!
Thursday, 27 October 2011
The Child who was shot dead by soldiers in Nyanga
The child is not dead
the child raises his fists against his mother
who screams Africa screams the smell
of freedom and heather
in the locations of the heart under siege
The child raises his fists against his father
in the march of the generations
who scream Africa scream the smell
of justice and blood
in the streets of his armed pride
The child is not dead
neither at Langa nor at Nyanga
nor at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station in Philippi
where he lies with a bullet in his head
The child is the shadow of the soldiers
on guard with guns saracens and batons
the child is present at all meetings and legislations
the child peeps through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers
the child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child who became a man treks through all of Africa
the child who became a giant travels through the whole world
Without a pass
trans by antjie krog & andré brink
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
By day there’s not a peep
from Anne who lives
in widowhood overhead
– except when she dozes off
over her diary
drops it on the floor
Otherwise not a peep
It’s another matter at night
then there’s all hell of a hubbub
Anne’s friends pound up the stairs
hollering their hellos
and crack open a feast
Some with a bottle of buttermilk
others nursing eggs
Towards dawn the neighbours are fed up
of fiddles and folksongs
The guests depart in haste
melting into the walls
When the police force the door
Anne sits at the kitchen table
trans by victoria cribb
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
but it was pleasing to see, quite by chance, the culture show's annual jaunt up the road to comrie to do their alternate take on it. i've seen these the last couple of years and found them much more amusing than the real thing, so much so sometimes i wonder why the bbc and , more pertinently, bbc scotland and their ilk, can't get it together to do more of this sort of thing, or on scottish tv's case, any of this sort of thing.
the books aside, it's just up the road from me, is full of nice wee necks of the woods and accompanying types who frequent these parts. you can watch it here
all of that should see me giving up on the bike hiatus and getting the cross bike out tomorrow for some late autumn action. what with the injury coupled with a couple of trip failures i've been proper scunnered with it of late. but with next month's yorkshire trip rapidly approaching i'm fancying a trip round the dales so a bit of fitness back in the legs will be required, esp with the look of some of the climbs!
Sunday, 16 October 2011
As soon as I open my eyes towards morning
I shall open the balcony doors, then
Into the room will come voice and pavement
In its very own image.
I know it’s only existence. In the tap
There’s almost no water, but
Morning will come, which you drank,
Which can be drunk like water.
Morning will bring itself to the window,
Morning is a dream in reality:
The fountain, the street, avenue and square
Are touched by it every day at the appointed time.
It will flicker its eyes for a moment,
And that moment something
Dyes everything in its own colours.
trans by donald rayfield
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing
we couldn’t tell which of us was a girl or a boy
we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread
and our future
a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon
was performing there
at the highest pitch
we grew up in a country where
first your door is stroked with chalk
then at dark a chariot arrives
and no one sees you anymore
but riding in those cars were neither
armed men nor
a wanderer with a scythe
this is how love loved to visit us
and snatch us veiled
completely free only in public toilets
where for a little change nobody cared what we were doing
we fought the summer heat the winter snow
when we discovered we ourselves were the language
and our tongues were removed we started talking with our eyes
when our eyes were poked out we talked with our hands
when our hands were cut off we conversed with our toes
when we were shot in the legs we nodded our head for yes
and shook our heads for no and when they ate our heads alive
we crawled back into the bellies of our sleeping mothers
as if into bomb shelters
to be born again
and there on the horizon the gymnast of our future
was leaping through the fiery hoop
of the sun
trans by valzhyna mort, franz wright and elizabeth oehlkers wright
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
anna wintour, quoted in this month's rouleur no less, said fashion's not about looking back. it's always about looking forward. which, while sounding oldly futurist, is a statement that could easily aplied to mcqueen. except that mcqueen doesn't just take the viewer to the future but to a range of other places entirely.
for me, looking at pictures of mcqueen's work is like looking at a landscape. but while much fashion can be reduced to a procession of skinny models plodding bovinely from one end of a plank to another mcqueen is all about the work. here's an artist (and i don't use the word loosely) who genuinely transcends boundaries. for me it's all about the colour, for t all about the textile. either is breathtaking and that's before considering the almost sculptural vision that powers the collections. put altogether like this (the book was done for a retrospective at the met) it's transcendent and dazzling.
waiting for me on my return from london, coincidentally considering what went on this week, was my copy of tomas transtromer's new collected poems which i got because i knew sorlil was reading them and i felt i'd been avoiding him too long. then along came the nobel.
frustratingly it's all in english which i hadn't realised. there are great lines, such as -
The herring gull: a harpoon with a velvet back.
In close up like a snowed-in hull
with hidden pulses glittering in rhythm
(from song) that when i read them out had both us wondering what they'd sound like in swedish. that'll be a request to the relatives then!
and the opposite of london, a place i've read so much about but spent so little time in, so that while i can draw a map of the place in my head the actual lived experience of it is entirely alien to me, the opposite is true of stockholm and reading about it thru the lense of transtromer. the poeple and places here are those that i know, the names seemingly plucked out and deposited in this book so that i feel as if i'm creeping back into my own memory in order to process the images/feelings, almost like a reverse phenomenology!
sitting scanning it tho, i find myself getting tetchy, particularly with philip hensher's snidey review in the telegraph. here is a haiku, he declares waspishly, that perhaps might have more 'swing' in swedish. except that it's not presented as a haiku but part of a longer work (section 6 - the great enigma). one's forced to question if hensher has actually read it with any attention whatsoever.
speaking to t about it later i was surprised how much it reminded me of being out on the boat (i spend a fair amount of time out on the archipelago, so much so i get the english and swedish pronunciations mixed up!), especially the earlier poems. there was also a thing in the memoir section - the title menninen ser mig, memories look at me, seems rather ideal - where he goes on about his liking for drawing when he was wee. i'm into a lot of drawing these days so this struck a chord, along with his haunting of libraries. i didn't know the word tranan (crane) either , which was a bonus.
so, new collected poems then. i'm told the translations are great but without the swedish it's hard to tell. what you have got is very readable and i have to say i was pleasantly surprised. nobel material? well, now....
what we won't be getting down to london for is the bush theatre's sixty six books which is running for most of this month and is a bunch of folk getting in about their copies of the king james bible. i have to say, this looks fabulous and i am saddened to be missing it. it is worth a scan around the website tho just to see what they're up to. it's great to see the bible getting used in this way, true it's a bit of a trawl at times but always around the corner is some fabulous chunk of language which makes it all worthwhile. plus those big old narrative paintings make a lot more sense when you know the references!
so we're still a bit pining for london. would we up sticks and move? that's a bit up in the air and seems unlikely in the short term but in a couple of years who knows. in the meantime it may be that i have to go back to sweden - unless of course last year's winter makes its predicted return early and i don't have to!
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.
This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval.
Such trees we never knew.
The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew.
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.
The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.
Could you have seen us through a glass
You would have said a walk
Of farmers out to turn the grass,
Each with his own hay-fork.
The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.
I must lie down at once, there is
A hammer at my knee.
And call it death or cowardice,
Don't count again on me.
Everything's all right, Mother,
Everyone gets the same
At one time or another.
It's all in the game.
I never strolled, nor ever shall,
Down such a leafy lane.
I never drank in a canal,
Nor ever shall again.
There is a whistling in the leaves
And it is not the wind,
The twigs are falling from the knives
That cut men to the ground.
Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
The way to turn and shoot.
But the Sergeant's silent
That taught me how to do it.
O Captain, show us quickly
Our place upon the map.
But the Captain's sickly
And taking a long nap.
Lieutenant, what's my duty,
My place in the platoon?
He too's a sleeping beauty,
Charmed by that strange tune.
Carentan O Carentan
Before we met with you
We never yet had lost a man
Or known what death could do.
Friday, 7 October 2011
to the very corner of the map, and its streets
full of holes like certain souls are out of favor in space time,
they bump into the mountains as through into absolute helplessness.
And they end up there, even the one called Freedom Street.
It’s just the river, as always, carrying off its green waters in the winter,
The grayness even oppresses the colors of fall. In the center
of the town a monument not for the person for whom it was once designated.
His facial expression confirms when one’s on the battlefield alone one’s
not a great warrior.
In the park the benches are painted blue and yellow.
In the mornings, especially on Sunday, the highlanders descend downtown
(most of them are Marijkas and Ivans, or Vasyls and Hannas).
They’re heading to the bazaar, less often — to church, to light a candle
for a departed soul.
The men, as a rule, go to the Smerichka Café.
You would never even come back here, if you knew no guilt
But something holds you firmly — evidently it’s a navel-string.
You suddenly make a powerful jerking movement — and behind you
your own innards will stretch, the way they do behind a wood nymph.
trans by michael m. naydan
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
today's offender was what looked like a fairly innocuous article about archery. now that's as maybe but the subtext of reading that article is that yours truly, once upon a time, was an archer of some repute and, in both athens and beijing, was fascinated by the archery competitions. not so for the guardian, for whom archery is posh darts, apparently favoured mainly by koreans. even schools can't be bothered watching it they tell us. because it's just not good viewing.
well of course not, especially if you don;t know what you're looking at. t, who is long inured to my liking for tv's minority sport, is these days, a big fan of the cycling when she has time to actually watch it. it was not always thus but the curiousity of seeing the person you live with engaged with a bunch of blokes seemingly doing nothing but cycling along a road had her looking for explanation.
maybe i wasn't quite as successful with the archery it's true but t was in no doubt as to the majestic performance of the koreans last time around. watching them shoot was transcendent. total stillness, total focus, if ever there was a zen sport it's this one.
in athens you could go along to the archery for nothing. beautiful venue, totally atmospheric. maybe lords isn't quite that but sports fields are where you do your archery in britain for the most part so as venues go, it's a good one. empty stands? archery isn't a jumping up and down sport! of course given the pricing for london you could buy yourself a set of cheap kit and join an archery club for the price of their tickets. i would recommend the latter.
archery is a beautiful sport that, once it's got a hold of you, is difficult to let go. it also, if you're going to do it at national level and beyond, requires massive commitment for very little outward gain. if the guardian and their ilk really want to be writing about olympic sport they should maybe start asking people who actually participate in them what it's all about.
me, i gave it all up years ago. i did have a brief return a while back but the club structure did nothing for me. i used to shoot every day, get coaching input every day so the notion of social shooting was completely alien to me. back then i could put three arrows in a milk bottle top at 20m seven times out of ten. that was good for juniors but nowhere near where i needed to be. back at the archery club they were about hitting the target, any notion of grouping was beyond them. whatever i did there it was never going to get me back to competition level.
but, that was me. everyone else there seemed to love it. and it was great to be back among the targets and nets, to listen to the quiet of shooting, to try and blank the mind so there is only draw and release.
watch the archery. be puzzled over what it's about. don't read lazy british journalism but get down to a club and give it a go. don't worry about hitting the centre of the target (tho please hit the target!). take three arrows, try and get all three within the space of the palm of your hand. achieve this. now do it again. and again. becoming a bit obsessive about that? now you understand....
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
it's been years since i was down in london town and prior to going i heard all the usual stories of crowdedness, poor air quality and general unfriendliness. the first two can be debated about but the last has never been my experience and certainly wasn't again this time. not only were the people lovely but there were so many of them and from so many places, it's been ages since i lived in a proper city and returning i saw exactly why i miss it, as if some part of myself had magically been coloured in.
naturally doing the family thing it meant it was three whole days before t hinted strongly that i should maybe have a day on my own, using the not unreasonable gambit of saying 'i think it's better that you have a day on your own' and it was great. i love that feeling in a city of being set adrift, set free, just wandering about and seeing where you wash up, eating different foods, listening to different languages (languages murdered by me = spanish, french. italian. i drew the line at mandarin but it was great to hear so much of it spoken)
we saw a load of stuff. from tate modern to a rather excellent craft exhibition at the v&a (this last contributing to a bit of an ongoing rant about the attitude to craft in this country some of which may appear on here if i can tone down the inflammatory content!) and everything in between. we dropped in at the british library on the way to see thomas heather wick's bleigiessen and this, as is the way of such things, was a bit of a highlight, even if we only managed to see a couple of things these being a rather excellent mervyn peak exhibit that had originals drawings and text for gormenghast and the like and then one of their larger exhibits that had the originals of, among others, the manuscript for mrs dalloway and jane eyre (yes, i've now seen the actual handwritten copy of reader, i married him). we both got proper excited about this and got a few bemused stares from servitors and punters alike. no bother tho - being scotch in london town has a few advantages!
it was the wee things that caught up with us tho. why, we wondered, when island communities up here are doing such consistent bitching about the price of fuel is petrol only 8p cheaper along the length of the a1 and, more astonishingly, diesel a full 20p dearer than where we live. this compared to the food prices which, across the board, were stupidly cheaper. and then wandering around other things started to emerge.
black guys on bikes. which might sound a bit odd but there's a discussion in the cycling world about the whitey nature of the sport. not in london town tho. put enough folk together and no matter what ethnicity they'll soon all be on their bikes. i passed thru herne hill a few times but,as is the way, no time to go to the velodrome. there seems tho, amongst pedestrians and car drivers as well as cyclists a wilful ignorance of other people. folk wander into the street, bikes, jump thru lights, cars seem to assume people walking and cycling are mad of oxygen. it was a bit mad. but equally i didn't see anyone i couldn't have taken in a spot of commuter racing. i was dying for my bike!
and the cultural melting pot that i'm such a fan of wasn't so shiny, shiny. where t's mum lives is where the riots were happening and the reverberations of that are still very evident if not worthy of the attention of the media anymore. and while me and my 'funny accent' might have drawn a few odd looks there when i made it over to the more well to do area of town it was fairly obvious that if you look like me then you're most likely in the back of a van or up some scaffolding. and if you've got any colour you'll be making a delivery. it felt weird and schizophrenic, to me vibrant and alive, but speaking to the folk in the local area made for a level of tension, esp if they had kids. talking about the differences between here and there made me much more aware of my outsiderness and the difficulty, if not foolishness, of drawing any conclusions based on such a short visit. that said, i'd have paid money to put a couple of shifts in at some salty local hospital!
but it was brilliant. given only slightly different circumstances i'd move there in a flat second. true it's dirty, a bit stinky, the public transport is possibly the most oddly set up (outside scotland - see edinburgh trams - and yes how i laughed when we in croydon and the joke that never got old for t was - what's that thing on the rails, moving, with folk inside? what is that?) i've seen in a major city and there's no countryside but the inglese themselves are just a pleasure with their funny accents, red buses and omnipresent politeness and definitely eased a certain part of my scotch wolfishness (t's phrase, not mine!)
next time i want to do one of those bus tours, go to a football match (or at least watch one with next doors serbian chelsea fans), have a posh cup of english tea, take the train down to brighton. and yet for all of that when i got back up the road and came down into the valley, seeing all the trees and hills again, the river curving round like glass, just waiting for us to stick the boat in it, clouds rolling over the landscape in strange and wonderful wave forms, despite the cold and the rain, it was good to be back.