thomas m wilson

London Colour?

July 17th, 2007

I spied a London mood…


Europe is the most densely populated continent. Only 1/100 of Britain has its original forest cover. London air pollution can be seen on the black grime on the buildings of the capital. These are the stones of the Fitzroy Hotel.  Imagine what your lungs would look like after fifty years of living in this city.


Martin Amis was right in London Fields to portray this city as a grey and gritty. But enough criticism. I’m staying on Bethnel Green Road with my friend Danny and this part of East London is pretty close to being on the Indian subcontinent. It is a mark of the multiculturalism of this city that I thought I was engaged in very London experiences when I relaxed in the apartment yesterday listening to a Ravi Shankar record, and when I then strolled down the street past the West Indian guys listening to reggae circa 1974 on my headphones.

They have damn good hats in this town. I bought a straw hat with a green top in Brick Lane market today from a stylish black guy.  You can see some of Alva’s other hat work on his site. Below is Brick Lane market. The fashion here is far more quirky than any  other European cities can manage.


They also have great bookshops in this city. Foyles on Charing Cross Rd., the road most famous for its bookshops, is excellent. As is the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury (that is the British Museum you see in the background on the left).


Browsing in these bookshops on the weekend I discovered a few titles I plan to get hold of and leaf through. They are:

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman; The Earth Only Endures by Jules Pretty; and the apparently quite gimacky but actually very intriguing Extreme Nature by Mark Carwardine.

One book I did buy was Wildwood by Roger Deakin.  The author of Waterlogged, a book about one man’s attempt to swim his way across Britain, died last year.  This book details his travels through trees around the world.  I happen to think the jacket design is superb.


I said that the British Museum was in the background of a previous photo. Walking around the Japan section of the place I discovered an ancient bell. Apparently bells such as this one have been found buried on the edge of agricultural land, suggesting that they were involved with some kind of fertility ritual. In Zen Buddhism the bell is used as symbol of enlightenment, a moment of clarity or satori. If you can, get your hands on an album simply called ‘Japanese Temple Bells. It is a recording of different bells, many from the 7th century, and is well worth hearing.


Tomorrow I’m leaving London for Geneva. This weekend I’ll either be in the Alps of Switzerland or the Black Forest of Germany.