February 24, 2008
Tracing the path of the River Fleet.
We drift in circles around each other. Threads untangle in the memory flashes of an uncanny landscape.
One night in a pub on Rosslyn Hill, I witnessed three skirmishes, three explosive grasps at ultra violence. We ended up in a cab to Camden, shifting over the path of the Fleet, and I felt London cascading, cinematic and charged. When we got to Inverness street there was a carnivalesque loopiness , it was a feverish Summer night and there were hordes of screechers and brawlers, a real demented din. We weaved through a maelstrom of dodgy loiterers and onion fryers , delighting in the thrill and degeneracy of the fairground.
The slow arduousness of that coach trip ,the impossible yearning, stranded up North, I saw our first encounter played out in such vivid clarity, the frantic kisses, it was the most alive sequence, I just watched it unfold, didn’t have to focus or even try, all that plotting and dreaming, eyes pressed to the window to see the first ragged boundaries of Edgware. Drill holes in rock, ravines gouged out in the cliff face, envelopes of blocks opening one on top of another.
In Wooley Edge services I yearned for the baroque whorls and curlicues of the labyrinth, smearing red lipstick in the fluorescent glare of the mirror.
The coach stops at Golders green station, a limp nexus, then there’s an ecstatic bundling rush with a hip flask of rum to the heath. London sprawls under a canopy of ruptures and livid blooms. I’m so tuned in to the desire you wouldn’t believe it, it scuttles all over me, little shivers of pleasure, bursts of erratic joy from shoulders to finger tips.
The ancient pathways are hazy with smoke as I drop down to the glowing windows of the Vale of Health. I search in the November dark for the traveller site behind corrugated iron, briars and hawthorn. A big crew of skinheads smash up cars defying the dead time of the Barrat estate. Caravans and trailers are reconfigured as mobile architecture. .
To desire placelessnesss is to defy authority.
Bouts of extreme violence activate my desire.
Michael Foot campaigned against that traveller site when he lived up there, called them vermin.
The covert symbols of chance encounters are visible on the heath. The city becomes cinema, signs oscillating and shimmering. I find scattered rice and hearts chalked on stone. London is a character in flux, vivid and psychoactive .
Jack Straws castle. I run through the back to blush up face and backcomb hair. Stop for a pint and conjure up images of Wat Tyler on his way to invade London with an enraged mob, smashing open prisons, beheading judges and lawyers. The Jack Straws castle is now a weather boarded simulacrum dating from 1964, you can sit in the ‘turret bar’ and survey the ‘spectacular views of the heath’
Surveying London from Parliament hill I think about De Certeau’s writings on the city. He says the aerial perspective that offers an overview of the city in it’s entirety ”transforms the bewitching world by which one was ‘possessed’ into a text that lies before one’s eyes” but denies knowledge of the city in it’s rawest sense. I look down imagining all the knots of disorder and crave my place in it.
TO BE CONTINUED..........................