10 February 2006

A Point of View

The camera should record what the eye sees. Cropping, framing and aligning are habits I just can’t break so the views are essentially contrived.

I took a long walk in London on Thursday. Despite collecting a Travel Card to ride the tube my pedometer still totted up thirteen miles of pavements, bridges, platforms, stairs and tunnels. Exercise and the bitterly cold fresh air have left my hip joints like iron grinding on iron. I pointed my camera at the Palace of Westminster and the British Airways London Eye and the resulting pictures are now here on Through the Lens along with various other images from the trip.

A dark contemplative mood drew me to Highgate Cemetery. This ancient bone yard to the north is loaded with high Victorian funeral architecture. Mausoleums are half hidden under thick, twisted creepers in remembrance of beings who were once important. The eastern side is a vast untamed wilderness of leaning statues and grimy tombstones amid dense undergrowth. The sense of Gothic horror is palpable. I would like to have spent more time there but some inconsiderate people turned up for a private funeral and visitors were ushered away.

I thought of a red-faced sexton leaning on his shovel, mopping his brow after a morning’s backbreaking effort. Not so, a bright yellow JCB stood a respectful distance from the grieving party having wrenched a hole in the ground with a single sweep of its coffin-sized bucket.

Driving to within range of the tube network is usually two hours each way but this time the homeward journey took four hours. The Police closed a section of the M3 because a coach had caught fire. So just when I was keen to get home and soak my aching muscles in a hot bath I had to endure extra time sitting in my stationary Mondeo. I couldn’t go forwards, couldn’t go back – so I had to sit it out. Why close all three lanes of the motorway for two hours just to squirt water on a burning vehicle? The hard shoulder became littered with overheated cars and lorries causing additional blockages. When finally I reached it, the incident scene was typical of modern over-reaction. About twenty cop cars and three fire engines surrounding a melted coach and scores of men in fluorescent bibs running amok.

Next time I’ll be riding - the Yamaha is nimble enough to squeeze through the slimmest of gaps.


dAAve said...

I have done similar walks around London dozens of times. It's the most amazing city I've ever seen -- on foot.

finnegan said...

I've got to get to London again after seeing your photos, P.V.

As my bad heel won't allow me the luxury of a prolonged walk, I think I'll hop aboard a double-decker.

Perfect Virgo said...

dAAve - someone said "if you're tired of London you're tired of life." I walked too far today but I'll recover.

Finn - long walks give me sore Achilles tendons for a few days but I conveniently forget that. The Travel Cards are good for tubes and buses so £5.40 is well spent but the best photographic opportunities require walking.


"The tube" as you call it is so clean. Certainly not like the "subways" we have around here.
I see you,

Patry Francis said...

A thirteen mile walk and a tour through history personal demise in a boneyard--sounds like my idea of a perfect day--except for getting stuck on the way home.

mussolini said...

in this part of the world, we do hardly get to walk. and when we do, we risk getting skin cancer and getting hit by cars (no sidewalks here). i envy your freedom.

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - there are 287 stations on the London Undergound tube network and I have to say some are cleaner than others! Admittedly there is no litter and no grafitti but close inspection reveals a certain amount of grime.

Patry - perfection indeed. I plan to do it again and often. The road closure incident is something which happens all too frequently in the UK. I drove in France recently and over there they just close one lane even for a fatality.

Mussolini - UK population 60.4 million - UK cars 24 million. Pedestrians get a fair deal in the urban jungle with underpasses and signal controlled crossings etc. My preference though is for two wheels... fast agile and exhilerating.


Well we have tons of liter and lots of grafitti...but I have been riding it so long I didn't realize how bad until I saw your photos.
I see you,

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - I reckon it's the hazard police at work on the underground because the above ground cuttings are solid graffiti and the track side is a rubbish tip. I love that sudden stirring in the air and the wind that picks up on the tunnel platform half a minute before we see the train.

Queen Neetee said...

Once again, I love your narrative voice! What a day! What sights!

The way in which you spoke of your trip to Highgate Cemetery was wonderfully eerie, and discribed to a 'tee'. However, thank you for visiting during the day. And how dare that party of inconsiderate grievers make you leave! :)
My, my...grave diggers have certainly changed.

As for being stuck in traffic, I understand completely. Looky-loos and rubber-neckers always slow the flow. It's truly a tragedy for the victim(s) involved in the cause of the hold up, but it's the nosy passerbys who add more than the necessary drama to the situation.

Vroom! vroom! The motorcycle is the way to go next time.

Great post!

I'm off to view your photos and to read your even newer post.
Thank you!

P.S. - I am the culprit who deleted the above post. I did so because it would not appear after I had posted the first time. I'm trying again now. If it doesn't appear again, I will leave it to be as it prefers, invisible.

Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - glad you enjoyed the stroll, I racked up too much mileage on foot yet as always I barely scuffed the surface. Blogger has been misbehaving lately and a number of comments have gone west... Never mind, I have sponged away all earlier evidence and there is no stain left!

Legend has it that Bram Stoker drew inspiration for his novel Dracula from visits to Highgate Cemetery. Hardly surprising! There are 37 acres containing 166,000 burials with only a small section maintained neatly. It was my first visit but certainly not my last - look out for future instalments complete with crumbling tombs.

Yep I will definitely be slicing through the lines of stationary traffic on the sleek black rocket in a few weeks :)

Cocaine Jesus said...

most weekends we go up the smokes and walk down the south bank and then hover around covent garden. london is brilliant. your bit about the time it takes to get there resonates with me as i have spent virtually all my working life in or around london. i live 45 miles east of london and at the weekend or at night you can do the round trip in maybe two hours. not so during the week when with traffic at its worst the same trip could take five to six hours.

Jen said...

Ok, that's it. I'm going over there. :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - always something new and different to see. That Eye is too high for my vertigo but I like the look of it from the ground!

Jen - just say when... WHEN!