Overheard · Travel

bitten cheeks

Everything looks amazing from the second level of a warm bus by clear blue winter skies and on comfortable seats. You can almost forget the conforming uniform world out there.

Driving around and seeing the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the agitated Thames river, Hyde Park and happy posing tourists. Royal Festival Hall, the Eye of London, Tate Modern…everything just looks clipped and neat. And warm, and with the sun and blue skies, you forget how nippy it is, and how broken your feet are.

Languages everywhere buzz, anything but English. Tagalog, Russian, Czech, Hebrew, Romanian, Lingala, Farsi, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Dutch…with a stay in Israel I can recognize them and close my eyes and they just become this amalgamated sound, in the bus.

Everything is smaller in London, it seems. At least in the metro. It’s shorter, rounder, smaller, more confined than in Paris, although cleaner and more interesting. The musicians in the Tube play more cheerful music and everyone walks with a smile they don’t care to wipe from their face, just around the corner, every corner, to empty their pockets in the Oxfam Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund boxes, shaken noisily by the volunteers in green and yellow uniforms. Some have better rythm than others with those buckets of coins.

Strange sound bites of arguing couples over e-mail etiquette “I believe you should answer an email five hours at the most after having received it” “Well, I don’t buy that. If you don’t need the answer right away, and haven’t said anything, then five hours is an arbitrary number, and I don’t see why I should.” “It’s common business etiquette.” “It’s arbitrary”.

“Die of a broken heart or develop a sense of humour” is in an email I got from the Antipodes. Good advice about surviving Israeli security and other things.

Walking into bookstores where everything is in English. Oh…were I only a Susan Sontag to have a spartan appartment with walls lined with 25,000 books that I pace by in my robes lightly brushing one hand against their spines and closing my eyes, to remember what is in them. Books full of words and images. So many books I pace along the wooden floors of every single bookstore (books should be on shelves on wooden floors for best effect, so the sun can bounce off the floor and shine onto the beautiful spines!). And hold my breath when I see Polidori’s Havana, incredible photos of Cuba’s city, breath-taking, tear-inducing…

Running out. The night of London calls our tired feet. More adventures. This time is a little more bitter than others, but maybe the weather and prices have caught up with us. Eight-dollar asparagus can stop anyone in their tracks, and make them walk backwards. With great speed.

Tomorrow, on to Arnos Grove and the grave of Shoghi Effendi, in a wooded quiet park in the hills almost outside of London. It’s always so lovely and peceful there.

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