Time can fly by or away without notice. Time can drag on with excruciating deliberateness. Time needs a witness. Documentation has the strange effect of giving texture to what may be fleeting, seemingly indescribable, untouchable. But how do we document? In words? With pictures? Evocations of emotions bound up on song? The daily school lives of children offer an extreme glimpse into the ephemera between time and witnessing wherein children are routinely asked to narrate on demand their experiences as they experience them. The abundance of spontaneous digital utterings and instantaneous electronic responses notwithstanding, we all could do with a bit of time — an occasional dose of slush, as it were — to gather our thoughts. And yet the temporal rhythms of many of our communicative spaces, this blog included, suggest, nay demand rapid witnessing that is too often free from the sort of studied and attentive awareness that is otherwise resplendent in, say for example, the poetic precision of Elizabeth Bishop whose writings with which I have continued to cross paths in the weeks since arriving in the UK. Most recently, I read her poem Sestina in which a glimpse into a relationship between a girl and her grandmother unfolds. The narrator talks of time, of “watching the teakettle’s small hard tears/dance like mad on the hot black stove” — Sestina is the name of the form the poem takes. Simple as simple is. And in that spirit, what follows is an unrefined recounting of my witnessings to date of this town and the ways of its citizens. (Although inspired by Bishop, that is where the connections end; her words exist in a stratosphere all their own.)
Tea reigns, but Flat White sputters out of the mouths of many morning cafe goers; often accompanying a morning pasty, porridge, or pain au chocolat.
Excuse me may get the job done, but Cheers or Sorry works better to convey simultaneous contrition for inadvertently occupying someone else’s space and gratitude for their gracious sidestepping as you make your way in or out of the door.
Where Hello might be at the tip of your lips, Hiya suggests both greetings and a conversation already in progress.
Helvetica font is abundant.
As are sweet treats, though their moniker is redundant.
Sainsbury’s is an approximate doppelganger for SuperFresh; Morrison’s is larger, more like ACME? And if it’s Whole Foods you desire, Waitrose awaits.
(In between the full size stores lay a bevy of Locals, Expresses, and Littles.)
Crisps often warrant an entire aisle, although pretzels are an odd rarity.
Speaking of Whole Foods, it’s a wonder Keira Knightley can find anything in there while hiding out underneath her fluffy, Jamiroquai hat.
A brave few venture forth when the walk light is red, but not before looking first left then right — or right then left; most wait for the man who walks in green.
Northeastern average cold temps bring Londoners to a freezing halt.
But color in its many splendid forms — the red pants and amber oxfords on a distinguished gentleman; inflections of a thousand languages mixing with one another, fill corridors and Tube cars; bright blue skies even when grey, cloudy ones are ever imminent — gets them moving again.