Boat Life

Aug. 23rd, 2017 04:03 pm
picosgemeos: (Seahorse)
Home in two month's time.

K and I are moving into a narrow boat in two month’s time.

A few months ago, a friend of ours kindly offered for us to borrow her boat – currently moored in King’s Cross – for a year. We’ll add our names to her insurance, pay the yearly boat license and live as "continuous cruisers" - moving the narrow boat every two weeks around London (something done by boaters who can't afford permanent moorings or don't want to stay put.)

There’s a Brazilian phrase that perfectly describes us: marinheiros de primeira viagem (first time sailors). We've signed up to a two-day helmsman course in September, where we'll learn about canal locks, double mooring, triple mooring, safety, engines, ropes and more. We are also looking at replacing the boat's diesel furnace with a coal stove (narrow boats can be freezing in winter), adding solar panels, and studying how continuous cruising will work for us and affect our commutes.

We have handed in our flat's notice and have begun to donate things to charity shops, look at what we can keep at K's studio, what we can sell and what we'll need in the boat. Ultimate minimalism is our goal.

In a way, it’s a bit like camping, but on water: quick showers, perishable foods that need to be used within 48 hours, economy when washing dishes, lighting the fire every night, clearing the ashes in the morning, and a lot of layers to keep away the cold. Luckily for me, I have showers at my office.

I’m hoping we’ll get to discover a very close knit and supportive community, get to see London through another angle after living for 16 years in tower blocks, and get to maybe even take the boat out of London for a little journey during holidays. We even have a few personal projects in mind (mine involves a novel, K’s involves drawing.)

It's an adventure, a year-long experiment. We are excited and nervous, but everyone we have spoken to says it's a great experience and we may even love it so much we’ll never wish to live on land again.

We went for pizzas last Friday with a couple who have been in a narrow boat for a year, and they not only had so much info to share, they offered to help us in so many ways. (This is apparently a very common trait of the community.) As we chatted over pizza and wine, the couple pointed other people in the restaurant: “they are in a boat. They have just moved into a boat. They are thinking of getting a boat…”
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Good morning world. #autumn #sunrise #canal #london #hackneywick #narrowboat #olympicpark

He wakes up early, when it's still dark, determined to visit his gym. Light breaks through the horizon when he leaves his tower block at 7am.

He takes East London's canals, following the coots and cyclists down the litter-strewn paths. The foxes must have had a wild party the previous night.

He arrives at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: his gym is a solid copper box surrounded by cranes, a beckoning giant in the distance.

He carries everything on his self – protein shake, gym clothes, toiletries, towel, shoes, work clothes, weight lifting gloves, iPhone, earphones – everything but his membership card.


Jun. 11th, 2016 08:58 am
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Girl always awake at 5.30am, like a girl with a clock for a heart. Girl watches London rise: luckiest girl alive.

Gone girl, to the gym. The good girl. In the changing room’s mirror, girl without a dragon tattoo. Girl out of the shower, wet hair. Drops on earlobes, girl with a pearl earring.

Girl on the train, on her way to work. Girl watches other girls: black girl, white girl, Nigerian girl, Danish girl. Her stare lingers – the girl that played with fire. It’s her station next – girl interrupted.

Girl finally at work: another girl in the glass tower.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by Alba Pena Castro

A bank holiday weekend in London graced by sunshine.

A shirtless young man does pull-ups in Victoria Park. Later, he’ll post a flawless selfie on Instagram. A runner stops to catch her breath and check if her stats uploaded onto RunKeeper. Then comes a group in their twenties, sharing a joke. They’ll have something to tweet about in the evening.

All the benches facing the park’s pond are occupied. Happy young families on the paddleboats upload their photos onto Facebook before they’ve even stepped back onshore.

He wonders what’s the best way to synthesise it all for his online journal.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Hogarth: A Life and a WorldHogarth: A Life and a World by Jenny Uglow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William Hogarth was one of the greatest English men to live, or at least Jenny Uglow makes a very convincing case for this. After having finished this biography, I’m inclined to agree.

Uglow does exactly what a historian should do: she brings to life the world her subject lives in while exploring various themes that resonate with us today. She has a fitting subject in Hogarth. He was a talented and proud artist, perhaps even worthy of being called the grandfather of English art - definitely the first big English illustrator and painter. He was a self-made man, climbing his way up from simple origins, but never losing sight of where he came from. More impressively, he never completely bowed to the privileged who he relied on for the sales of his work. He built his reputation on taking down the arrogant and rich with his satirical illustrations, sometimes to the detriment of his career.

Hogarth lived through the first half of the 18th century and was instrumental in setting up two things that we now take for granted: arts academies (he set up St. Martin's Lane Academy, a precursor of the Royal Academy) and charities (he was one of Captain Thomas Coram’s main supporters in setting up the Foundling Hospital in 1741.) Jenny Uglow subtly compares Hogarth and Coram to each other, who were friends and represented the rise of a type of hardworking, rags-to-riches Englishmen who were also patriotic and compassionate. One of Hogarth's masterpieces, a portrait of Thomas Coram, hung at the hospital’s entrance, and even the hospital's first printed papers used a design by Hogarth on their header.

Uglow goes through every important work in Hogarth’s career (the book is filled with many images of them), explaining their context and importance. But what really grabbed me was the Enlightenment world he lived in. Sir Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift were his contemporaries. Near the end of his life, Benjamin Franklin showed interest in his work. Other interesting facts and stories that crop up in the biography:

- English society was divided in three group types: prostitutes, people who used them and people who knew them. Venereal diseases were a major preoccupation and a central topic in the coffee shops that had just appeared in London and were all the rage. Prostitutes painted disease spots on their bodies with black ink, making them look like Dalmatians. They feature a lot in Hogarth's work.
- Homosexuality was acceptable in private. Male whorehouses, known as “Molly Houses”, were just as popular as their female equivalent, and although sodomy wasn’t legal, punishment wasn’t as severe as centuries later.
- There was a lot of singing all over London, all the time. The news was delivered through broadside ballads, which people bought in the morning on cheap paper and learnt the tune from the seller. They'd then walk away humming the tune, to memorise it, while learning the ballads to share with friends and family later, which could be about anything from love and religion to current political issues or disasters. This made me think of the explosion of popular music in Britain in the 20th Century and how it's actually something in the island’s blood.
- A “celebrity”, Mary Toft, fooled the great physicians of the time by making them believe she was giving birth to rabbits. She was a sort of ancestor to Darren Brown.
- A favourite past time of royalty in London was to come out and watch fires destroying homes, and even try to help put them out.

Just as I was finishing this biography, I stayed at a friend's in West London, not too far from Hogarth's Chiswick country home. It's now a museum worth visiting; you get an idea of where he escaped to when he needed a bit of countryside, and where he lived with his family towards the end of his life. A mulberry tree from his lifetime still stands in his garden. It was nice to see it and imagine whether Hogarth used to sit underneath it as he worked on his sketches.

View all my reviews
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

A short video about the Creative Future Literary Awards evening at the Free Word Centre last September. I appear right at the start, talking about marginalised writers.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Going home.#london #camden #spring #sunset

It’s now sunny in London, but still cold.

My boyfriend wakes up at 5am and can’t go back to sleep. ‘It’s actually 6am,’ I say. ‘The clocks will move forward in a few weeks.’

It’s no longer dark when I leave for work or dark when I return. I cut through Victoria Park and feel slightly jealous of the people jogging around it. Cyclists take a second to look me in the eyes and judge whether I’ll jump in front of them, or not. And then they are gone.

On the train platform, I’m happy to soak up the rays.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Image by Jiri Siftar

I was in Victoria Park this afternoon to say goodbye to a friend who is returning to Brasil for good on the 17th.

We made plans to meet by the entrance gates, near the pond. While I was standing around waiting for her to arrive, two cyclists collided against each other and crashed onto the pavement. One of them was knocked unconscious.
It all happened so fast. Suddenly people were standing around them - couples with children, a woman with her dog, a gardner in a neon jacket. One of the cyclists got on the phone to ambulance services. Tears were pouring down his face, which he kept trying to wipe away as he spoke on the phone. The other guy, face down on the pavement, started twitching. A woman, holding her toddler daughter in one hand and a scooter in the other, leaned close for a good look. The woman with the dog got closer too; the dog, strangely, wanted to move away.

Staff from the café by the pond ran towards the group. A man berated the cyclist that was on the phone. A couple marching into the park spotted the commotion and decided on a detour - to walk past and also take a good look. I felt disgusted. (Was I any better, though, standing slightly apart and watching everything unfold?)

More people from the café joined the circle. I hoped one of them was a doctor. Someone went to the gates to unlock it so the ambulance could come through. Joggers went by, ignoring everything. The woman with the dog took off her jacket so they could put it underneath the cyclist's head. The man in the neon jacket rubbed the man's back, the others gently tried to turn him on his side. His legs kept kicking; I hoped he wouldn't pass away there and then.

Sirens in the distance, a rapid response ambulance car with four paramedics was about to arrive. The man was sitting up now, cradled by some of the bystanders, half of his face covered in blood. As soon as paramedics had their hands on the man, the crowd dispersed.

'Did he fall off his bike?' I heard someone ask me. It was a little old lady, in a pink crocheted hat and black parka coat, with a Jack Russell Terrier by her side.

'No, he collided against another cyclist,' I told her, going into all the details of what had just happened.

'They go so fast,' she said. 'You are meant to go 5 miles per hour but they always go much faster.'

The Jack Russell Terrier had now decided I was a friend and was jumping on my leg. I bent down to pet him and she told me he was called Milo. We watched as a proper ambulance arrived and the four paramedics cut all the clothes off the cyclist and lifted him completely naked onto a stretcher. They then covered him with a grey blanket and slid him inside the ambulance.

'Do you bring Milo to Victoria Park twice a day?' I asked.

'I've got age against me now,' she laughed. 'I take him mostly to a little square near my tower block but if the day is not wet, like today, then I bring him here for a few hours.' Milo had moved away and was now sniffing the café's garbage bins.

She told me she was born in Bethnal Green and lived all her life there and the furthest she had moved was to Bow. She had been 5 years old when the War happened; she and her sisters were evacuated to Suffolk, to live with a woman nicknamed "Nanny". Her parents stayed behind in London but were luckily not involved in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. However, she had a close call in Suffolk. The village they were staying was near the American base and one Sunday, while they were in chapel, they saw smoke rising from the area where Nanny lived. Someone came running in to tell them that one of the American planes had crashed into Nanny's home - the only thing left was a smouldering fireplace. It turned out that during a reconnaissance flight, the plane's engine malfunctioned. The pilot ejected while aiming for the plane to head into the sea but for some reason it turned itself around and crashed into the village.

We spoke of other things - of Victoria Park's old pagoda, of a rumoured murder on one of the park's bridges, of the lads who used to go around with aggressive dogs and who had suddenly disappeared. We said our goodbyes when my friend arrived; we wished each other a merry Christmas. I found out her name was Rita and that she was going to spend Christmas with her son up in Lincolnshire (and of course Milo was going too) but she was very jealous I was flying the next day to Brasil and it was a shame she couldn't be snuck inside a trunk and go with me.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

I am about to step off the Overground train on Peckham Rye station when an impatient young woman in a red checkered shirt rudely slides ahead of me.

I pull out my umbrella as we walk down the platform. I step up my pace and overtake her.

A line trundles down the wet steps. She runs past us and pulls out her mobile phone to check something. Oh, no you don’t. I see a break on the stairs from people coming up and make a dash.

Ahead again, I smack into a guy’s coffee and get it down my arm.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Commute home.

Eastern European builders often travel in pairs. Young Dantes shown the sights by careworn Virgils.

Their fingers are stubby, lined with cuts; their fingernails are dirty. They unashamedly dig into their noses and scratch their crotches. But when they laugh, their smiles are white.

They share jokes in their tongues, usually about some stranger in the train. Beautiful women bring on moody silences though; they search the floors for something to look at.

Some travel alone, don’t have a buddy from back home. On the streets, they carry cans of beer and walk upright; they never look to the sides.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Piccadilly tube line, London

London’s trains are filled with Eastern European men.

Shaved heads, boots, paint stains, tools, backpacks, mobile phones with mind-numbing games, beer guts that give away their spare time. They are building homes they can’t afford to live in.

I never see them on the way to work, only when I return – they must start earlier than me. Sometimes they sit on the train’s floor and sleep between their arms. Or they look at fellow passengers with an edge to their stares. They are the kind of men who smoke out of boredom.

How often do they call their loved ones?
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Walk home after work through Mile End Park, Regent's Canal.

Autumn in London has been beautiful so far: sunny skies and crisp days.

I walk through Bow and Peckham on my way to work, listening to recently downloaded albums: the new ones from Erasure, Ghost Culture, Disclosure, CHVRCHES and New Order – plus some old ones too (Pet Shop Boys, 1999; Yazoo, early 80s.)

I have no energy or disposition to exercise once I’m back home; I’m envious of those heading towards Victoria Park. I’ve tried a few times to get off the tube earlier and walk up Mile End Park, following Regent’s Canal. I’m invisible to incoming cyclists and joggers.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
I’m one of 12 finalists attending tomorrow’s Creative Future Literary Awards ceremony in London.

Last night, I asked my boyfriend what it was like to perform on stage to an audience. I’ve never done it myself; the impending reading makes slightly nervous.

Over a year ago, he self-published a graphic novel with the help of Kickstarter (and tons of supportive friends and family.) He held the launch in a music venue in London, read on stage and even performed with a masked band and backing singers.

“Remember that they are all on your side,” he reassured me in the dark.


Sep. 9th, 2015 07:05 am
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by AmyFTF

Someone spat on me as I walked home from work yesterday.

It happened on Roman Road, E3. I remember it as if I were Jackie Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas. I was walking through Bow, on my way to Victoria Park, and I decided, as usual, to cut across Roman Road. When I reached it, there was hardly anybody on the road, just a blonde girl riding a bike in my direction and, to my right, an Eastern European guy standing outside a fast food joint, observing me. I let the girl ride past before crossing to the shutdown betting shop on the other side.

I was leaden down with groceries. The posters tacked on the betting shop caught my attention: bands releasing albums, playing upcoming gigs. Suddenly I felt something like a piece of rolled up paper hit my left shoulder. I turned back but there was nothing on the sidewalk, and nobody staring down from the flats above the betting shop. I looked across the street and the Eastern European guy was now looking at me with curiosity, as if he’d spotted someone in the Grassy Knoll.

I looked at my shoulder and saw a wet trail. I kept walking and turned the corner, where I stopped to have a proper look. The gob had hit my shoulder and trailed down my jacket and backpack. I put the backpack on the sidewalk and took my jacket off. I always carry a pack of tissues with me; I fished one out and wiped the mess as best as possible. Then I started to walk again, joining the smiling couples heading for the park for an evening jog. I thought of the times I’d returned home late from drinking out with friends, and how I knew which flat exactly the attack had come from, and wouldn’t it be nice if a hefty rock went through their window in the early hours as they slept.

When I got home, I put the jacket and the backpack in the bathtub. As the water ran over them, I added washing powder. I thought of the person who did this because I happen to have started a job with a mental health charity in South London. Did they happen to spit out of the window and hit me by accident? Or were they lying in wait? How abnormal does your life have to be to make you want to spit on random strangers? Was it an adult or a teenager? Would they share it with a friend, or keep it a secret? In any case, they'd only hit my jacket; they'd missed my head.

As the jacket and backpack soaked, the water turned into a rusty brown, as if blood was being washed off it. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cleaned them. “It’s London coming out of them,” my boyfriend said looking at the water.


Aug. 4th, 2015 12:32 pm
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
#london #bhf #victoriapark #running #10k
With fellow runner [ profile] neenaw

It's been now 7 months since I left Brasil and returned to London.

I fly to Canada in 7 days on holiday - it's been over 7 years since I've visited my in-laws and friends there.

I turn 40 in less than two months.

I ran 10K on Sunday for the charity British Heart Foundation (though my iPhone's GPS said it was 9.46k.) It took me 59 minutes and 11 seconds.

I did yoga in my living room at 7am this morning. I then left home and walked past that cat on my way to work - the one I saw on the day my grandmother passed away. It arched its back and stiffened its tail when I lowered myself to pet it. There were bits of leaves in its hair.

From the platform of Hackney Wick Overground station I spotted shirtless builders erecting a condo.

On the train, I listened to Dead Can Dance and saw mystery in the eyes of some of the commuters.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
#mg #minasgerais #suldeminas #korggo #corgo #corregodobomjesus #pousadadonamarica

Two days ago, I left for work at 8am (as usual) and walked to the nearest train station to catch the Overground to North London. On my way, I was surprised to find a white and black cat laid out in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped for a few seconds to pet it. It didn't budge when I stood up and walked away.

In the train, I read a chapter from Rowena Wiseman's novel Repeat After Me. The main character, a teenager called Ivy, had just discovered her grandmother was going to stay with her for a few days - taking care of her while her parents were in America. Granddaughter and grandmother had started off on the wrong foot but, as the chapters progressed, had begun to appreciate each other's company.

Later that same day, on my way home, I found the cat still laid in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like it was waiting for someone. I stopped again to pet it.

In the evening, while watching an interview with Alan Moore and his wife on YouTube, discussing their collaborative work Lost Girls, I had a quick look at Facebook and found out from an aunt that my grandmother had passed away a few hours before.

My grandmother's wake and funeral took place yesterday, 8th July 2015, in Londrina, Brasil. She was 89 years old.

I called my mother yesterday evening and she told me her mother's death had been very sudden. She had had lunch on Tuesday and gone to the bedroom to take her customary nap. The way she laid down, she stayed; she never woke up.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
"There's no need to be an asshole, you're not in Brooklyn anymore"
No Destruction, Foxygen

I've been thinking lately about the cost of living in London and, in particular, how long I can make it here. It seems to be a feeling shared by many in my age group (late 30s, early 40s) who don't own property and live in large metropolitan cities in western countries. Do we rent until the end, or do we try to get a property in a smaller town, with all the advantages and disadvantages that it brings?

In many ways, I've been lucky since my return to London in December 2014. Six days after my arrival I'd found temporary work at a recruitment agency and didn't have to worry anymore about my finances. Then, a few weeks later, my boyfriend and I found a small but decent flat by Victoria Park to rent (not far from where we used to live a few years ago, before I took my sabbatical in Brasil.) It's a neighbourhood I've lived in for ten years, and which I adore, so I was grateful to get a new flat there without much hassle.  But the rent price, the rent prince... We now pay nearly 30% more for a one bedroom flat in a tower block than we did ten years ago for a two-bedroom in the same area.

Changes are noticeable everywhere in London. Dropping out of London's rat race for a year in Brasil was equivalent to me to coming off a drug. I now feel more critical to what I see around me, especially in this part of London.

When we first moved to the Eastend, Victoria Park was abandoned and unused. This community was predominantly made up of working class families.  A young American artist made the news when she was stabbed one early morning while jogging because nobody saw anything. Soon, though, the park began to change. It won a fund for its redevelopment. Its café was rented out to a new owner and a popular organic café was born (one that I admittedly love.) Popular music festivals made their home in the park during the summer. The young artists and hipsters from Hackney cycled down the canal to enjoy it and, before long, the London Olympic was announced next door.

The area had regenerated; my partner and I started feeling at home.

Nowadays, you have to take a moment to check the paths in the park before you start running - there are joggers and cyclists everywhere. And they are all so busy with their iPods and conversations, you could be easily run over.  And they are not the students and artists from yesteryear - they are money people in expensive sports gear who bought up everything because, I assume, they don't want to live in Canary Wharf, which is just down the road, or in Chelsea, because they can't afford it yet or because the Eastend is just too cheap to ignore and, in their eyes, a good long term investment.

#victoriapark #london

I don't blame these rich people for wanting to live here - if I could, I'd buy a place too! But the problem is that rent has now gone up, to reflect the price these wealthy people are willing to pay.

My boyfriend recommended I check out Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast. It's a funny, thought-provoking listen. Benjamen's latest podcasts will resonate in particular with New Yorkers: the series, "New York After Rent", looks at the rapid commodification of NYC since 2008 - the year of the financial crash but also the year Rent, the musical, came off stage. His main theory is that Airbnb is all to blame and he peppers his podcasts with some funny stand up such as the one by performer Penny Arcade ("We all came to New York to escape the popular people in high school... and now they are here, and everywhere!") Penny also makes fun of all the cupcakes being sold in NYC. She calls it OCD, Obsessive Cupcake Disorder. The Big Cupcake has supplanted the Big Apple, she says, and New York is no longer the place outsiders go to reinvent themselves - it's the place where the ordinary go to replicate the places they come from. The latest podcast also has a melancolic essay by writer Tim Kreider, who talks about being exiled to one of NYC's less popular neighbourhoods and still having to share a flat with a roommate as a 40-something year old.

Meanwhile, down the street from us in London, an old estate agency has shut down. A few days ago I noticed some signs going up on its store front - coffee signs. Now I've noticed a wooden counter being added, leather sofas and a sink. Another cafe will soon join the many that recently popped up around Victoria Park. We'll never run out of cupcakes.

The Return

Dec. 28th, 2014 01:05 pm
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
My boyfriend and I fly back to London tomorrow.

If our Lufthansa flight disappears over the Atlantic, I'll come back to visit you (yes, you reading this--I'll be by the foot of your bed at night, when you wake up with chilled toes.) I won't do anything; I'll just stare. And in my stare you'll know that I won't rest until my body is found at the bottom of the ocean.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I gave The Cuckoo's Calling to my boyfriend as a birthday gift. I kept quiet about who was really behind the pseudonym Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) as I knew he wouldn't be aware of this fact: I was curious to see what he'd think of the novel.

Halfway through the book he turned to me and said: "it's strange but it feels like this novel was written by a woman." Why? I asked. "The way the main character, Cormoran Strike, describes his secretary doesn't sound like the way a man would think."

Because I knew J.K. Rowling had written it, I couldn't think of anything else but "Why did she write this?" as I read on. Why did she bother? Why did she choose such a simple style, such a middle-of-the-road approach? The novel brings absolutely nothing new to the crime genre. It reminded of something ITV would come up with, like Midsomer Murders - and in fact some plot points don't get resolved and are clearly meant to be developed over various books.

The characters felt very paper-thin and stereotypical (with perhaps the exception of Cormoran Strike himself) and the uncovering of celebrity life in London after the suspicious death of a supermodel was more superficial than a Heat magazine article. Most disappointing of all, the first remotely exciting plot development only happened on page 360!

This novel is more chick-lit than crime fic but only because J.K. Rowling chose for it to be so. But why? I ask myself again. Was she afraid of delving deeper into the crime genre? Afraid she'd be found out so she stuck with something easy to swallow, that would sit prettily by a cashier's desk at the supermarket and wouldn't reflect badly on her?

The end was somewhat satisfying and neatly concluded the main mystery - almost as if Agatha Christie had been channeled for the task (I was reminded of how Christie started her novels by writing the end first and I get the suspicion that's what Rowling did here.) I hope though that she takes some risks in the next books in the series.

View all my reviews
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

When I can, I try to go for walks in the morning, after preparing breakfast for our guests. Sometimes I listen to an iTunes playlist on shuffle, sometimes a podcast ("The Sound in My Head", "Expanding Mind", "The New Yorker Fiction Podcast"). Today, I listened to a lecture by Mary Beard on "The Public Voice of Women" given to a London Review of Books audience. I think the lecture may have been given at the British Library.

My brother's German Shepherd Lelo likes to accompany me on these walks.  Six laps in total, equivalent to 4.800 metres. I enjoy Lelo's company but today I decided to sneak out and avoid him: he barks and runs after any motorbike, nearly knocking off the riders. I don't want to be there when he causes an accident. He's also got a thing against chickens and cats.

So I walked on my own, freezing slightly even though it was sunny, picturing myself in that British Library auditorium. Temperatures have dropped these last few days, reminding me of what a friend from São Paulo recently said: Winter is much worse than Summer in Brasil; we don't know how to cope with it.

I walked past tractors and builders working on a construction site, a mechanic's shop, stray dogs, horses, cows, birds picking over scattered corn. I walked past other walkers and to some I said "good morning".  I walked past our gardener collecting this morning's milk, my great uncle having a chat with my mom's cousin.  I walked past one of my mom's god-daughters having a loud conversation with her family and, finally, I walked past our guesthouse, six times.

Again, I'm amazed that I suddenly find myself living in a small town in Brasil, when only a few months ago I lived in London.  12 years in the UK's capital suddenly brought to an end... a temporary one I hope. When I first started listening to Mary Beard's lecture, I thought it might remind me too much of my London life and, consequently, depress me for the rest of the day.  But its effect was actually the opposite: I forgot the world around me and paid attention to her descriptions of antiquity and works of western civilization art. I became engrossed in her arguments. I even carried on listening to the lecture as I showered afterwards.

"What was that music you were listening to?" one of our employees asked me later. "Did you not hear me call you?"


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