Saturday, 8 March 2014

View of the lakes and Carnival in Milan

A forlorn tube map at Hounslow East ... but in the shuddering gloom of the Piccadilly line it is always exciting to set off early in the morning on a journey. Something else lies ahead.
The train to Heathrow is full of tired people - people who got up early to travel and those who look as if they have worked through the night. Opposite is a weary Asian woman who has several carrier bags filled with bundles of wrapped things, not new purchases - one from W Hotel, Leicester Square. A boy - man? - stands by the door, eating donuts, one after another - three in all - then wipes the sugar from his hands and starts to chant/mimic the train announcements.

As ever, the most spectacular sights are seen from above.

Byron travelled over these with Hobhouse (great friend and best man at his wedding).
"Rose at five. Crossed the mountains to Montbovon on horseback, and on mules, and by dint of scrambling on foot also; the whole route as beautiful as a dream, and now to me almost as indistinct."
September 19th 1816

On the plane read of a virus that is infecting computer networks in the Ukraine. The standoff with Russia continues. This is a new kind of warfare, a digital beachhead. It is known as the Snake virus, or Ouroboros - the snake in Greek mythology that devours its own head. (Perhaps the most vicious form of destruction - destruction of the self ....)

Milan is celebrating: it's the city's Mardi Gras. Excited children in fancy dress and streets crowded with party people. Italians seem happy (though when you say that to Italians they throw up their hands. Happy? We are always complaining). But who wouldn't be happy with such sunshine, and so much mimosa? Light-headed to leave grey London - could be emerging from a dark tunnel into the light.

Odd that days have accidental visual themes. It's entirely a coincidence that the circles in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele mirror the image of Ouroboros. (Perhaps a traveller needs themes - an incidental structure to a visit).

On the streets of gold are similarly giddying visions. Promising a transformation of self, perhaps.

The Versace sequinned dress is like armour: I want one. And love the mauve silk against the jewelled mohair. The heather reminds me of home (in a good way).
(As does this man - talking of contemporary mythology. A god bestriding the Via Spiga. Is there anyone who does not recognise David Beckham?)


In an Italian world I would like to be this woman. Love the studded boots. ever... the huge white cathedral dominates the square.

The party's over. (In the tradition of the best parties - no one is clearing up yet.) Heaps of confetti everywhere. Much of it is cut from recycled paper, snippets with fragments of phrases.

What do they mean? Like so many fortune cookie messages tossed willy nilly into the world. (In the office before I left a colleague threw away stale fortune cookies, left over from the Chinese New Year. Aren't you throwing away good luck? I said. I don't care, he said. No superstition there.)

Try to piece them together but of course there is no obvious sense. Is there in anything? Could there be a message in the Hermes scarf? Such intricacy. (And lost when worn - whatever it says then is known only to the wearer. In other words - you can't see the pattern when it's folded. Maybe there is a message for life here, too.)

"Milan is striking - the cathedral superb. The city altogether reminds me of Seville, but a little inferior. We had heard divers bruits, and took precautions on the road, near the frontier, against some 'many worthy fellows (i.e. felons) that were out', and had ransacked some preceding travellers a few weeks earlier near Sesto."
Milan, October 5th 1816/Lord Byron letter to his publisher John Murray

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy