Sunday, January 20, 2008

London notes

17.1, 20.1


Mayfair is a small, wealthy Swiss town in the middle of London. The Bond Streets host the boutiques, jewellers, art galleries and auctioneers advertised in How to Spend It. Sophisticated women and men walk the sidewalks, chins up, hardly flinching at what's displayed on the windows, never stopping. Women usually wear their trenchcoats and coats unbuttoned, while men keep their hands in their coat pockets. The buildings, powered by wealth and history, hold the colourful flags of the shops tirelessly. Small shops with small, delicate paintings, men's shoes, pipes, and small rectangle perfume bottles line the passages, they glow with the rustic red of the wood and warm yellow lights. On Sundays jewellers put away the jewels, but the price tags remain.



Walking out of the dirty, busy Liverpool Street Station, one steps into the dark world of asphalt, steel, glass, sharp corners, vertical lines, white lights and water puddles reflecting and multiplying all this. If you walk left a little, you'll see a huge pub on the corner across the street, and that little street leads to the alleyways which in turn lead to where I used to live. That's why it's homey to me. First there's the friendly dry cleaners. Then there are little cafés and sandwich places that fill up during lunchtime, a dark winery decorated with barrells, there are homeless people walking up and down (one guy wanted to go to Bermuda and there was a little woman who really creeped me out), the occasional boutique that manages to hold an elegant, fragile contrast to everything else. There's the Jack the Ripper graffitti on the brick wall plastered with white paint. When you walk on those alleyways at night, there is always lots of trash, and a couple making out promiscuously.

I could see the roofs of these small buildings from my kitchen. One of them had a terrace with green plants even.

That was a huge paranthesis, sparked by my love of my old neighbourhood. But that is not where we went Friday night. We didn't take the street that leads to my old dorm, and then to Spitalfields, Commercial Street with the little, dark, concrete church, and Brick Lane. Instead we just kept walking on Bishopsgate past EBRD, ABN Amro, RBS, a skyscraper construction. We ended up in the Light on the brink of Shoreditch High. It's a two-storey, spacey place. Upstairs there are big windows and a terrace. From the windows you could see the street, the traffic, the red buses with their red stop lights. We had to step outside to escape from the loud trance music, and stood in the drizzle. From here we could see the Gurken and the street. It's a happy, playful building. It was alit white like all the others, but its round shape made it smiley like the moon.


Covent Garden

I remember the day I handed in my dissertation. I felt so light. I stopped by work briefly, then walked back towards Covent Garden. The first time I walked around the neighbourhood properly. There were boutiques, bookshops with boxes of cheap books outside, one bookshop solely dedicated to books about design, dance studios. It looked like an artsy theater district. Somewhere hidden were bohemian dancers, singers, actors, their aspirations. Then there were a couple of astrology/mysticism shops with colourful stones and beads and cards. I walked in and flipped through the books to read about the qualities of my sign - and the sign of the guy I liked at the time.

Last night, I walked from Charing Cross to Long Acre with a friend. I saw a Mexican restaurant, a native American place with high ceilings, some other restaurants/bars we haven't been to yet. People mingling. When places like these open in Istanbul, it becomes a huge deal. Here, there are just too many of them. Diverse, lively neighbourhoods, exciting and inspiring even in their dirt and ugliness. I felt ashamed of not being able to be happy in London, not being able to appreciate it fully, not being able to catch up with it, lose and forget myself in it.

Now that I'm thinking of leaving in a couple of months, I'm so awake to its beauty. I'm walking around like a tourist, always lifting my gaze to see the buildings and the whole street, my eyes scanning around to discover side streets, alleys, courtyards.

When I came home, I saw a quote by Charles Baudelaire on Ekşi Sözlük. "Ben nerede değilsem orada iyi olacakmışım gibi gelir." Whereever I'm not, it seems that I'll be good there. People said you couldn't escape from yourself wherever you went. Yea, we are always by ourselves, with ourselves. People can leave us, and each time somebody leaves us, we too want to leave ourselves, but we can't. We are stuck here. I can leave everything, everywhere and everyone, but not myself.

So better start getting along!

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