The first thing I noticed were the conversations in the underground, opening my ears as if I was hearing English for the first time. Such different rhythms and sounds that I found it difficult to concentrate on my book. Shortly after, the carriage was filled with the smell of chips as schoolboys in navy uniforms climbed on board. I try to imagine myself as a commuter making this journey every day, stopping off at Waitrose on the way home to pick up crumpets, semi-skimmed milk and take advantage of the 3 for 2 offers but I can't. I feel like an alien, hesitating at every crossing to work out which direction the traffic is coming from, then realising I've missed my chance and deciding it's better in any case to wait for the green man. My compatriots give me strange looks and probably take me for a tourist. When I finally arrive though it's comforting to see familiar faces. The evening was mild and tinted blue with the twilight. I couldn't face being squashed like a sardine in the rush hour to Piccadilly Circus so decided to go as far as Russell Square and visit the London Review bookshop. For more than an hour, I wandered between floors and different bookshelves, sitting in a corner with a pile of books at my side to make the difficult decision what to choose before opting for Truman Capote letters, the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler, once lent to me by Chrissi but which I somehow never managed to finish. Watching a couple of episodes of Friends later that evening left me with the impression of being in a timewarp; suddenly I was back at school where all the boys drooled over pictures of Jennifer Aniston and the girls wanted her haircut. I felt nostalgic for Friday nights when I was allowed to stay up later and watched American comedy series.
The days that followed were generally grey and covered by a fine curtain of drizzle. I decided to revisit the National Gallery, taking pride in being one of the first visitors that day as we waited patiently for the doors to open. I can never go inside a gallery without thinking of Thomas Bernhard's Alte Meister, one of first books I read in German and picture Reger and Atzbacher sitting on the leather chairs discussing music and literature while the attendant, Irrsigler, closes off the rooms for them when they want to be alone and they observe the groups in guided tours with contempt. I rediscovered the skyline on the river and the Southbank, perhaps my favourite place of all where the secondhand booksellers set out their tables under Waterloo bridge. I dreamt of days spent in the cinemas of the BFI to see the whole Truffaut or Howard Hawks seasons or evenings at the National Theatre, where Danny Boyle's Frankenstein is playing, or at the Festival Hall where I heard Mozart and Mahler. There was a walk alongside it on Sunday morning in Walton-on-Thames and coffee and cake at Carluccio's before getting ready to leave but perhaps the best part was seeing the lights of the city with their blue and gold tones reflected in the water when outside all was calm. I wondered if I will ever be able to grasp London with its changing faces.
Evening falls on Russell Square
New Boris bikes
Presumably they also clean teddy bears
On Trafalgur Square
At the Royal Adademy
La Nuit Américaine as part of the Truffaut season
The Dulwich picture gallery
Exploring the ground in the rain
At the Festival Hall
The graveyard in Walton-on-Thames
A Sunday walk by the Thames
Stopping for coffee and cake at Carluccio's