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Travelogue I13

July 6, 2016

I took to my hostel berth early on Sunday evening, following a fruitless quest to find more interesting fare than what Sainsbury’s Local had to offer. Monday morning saw me wake and return my key and bedding well before the hostel’s meager breakfast offerings were set out. Loaded down but otherwise swift of step, I reached St. Pancras ahead even of the dawn, seemingly come late to color the city from sodium orange to grey drear. Having collected my tickets the day of my arrival, I made my way directly to the platforms which gave access to the trains serving the East Midlands. A sizable crowd, at least for a Monday sunrise, had set up shop on the nearby benches or milled about the barricades separating waiting from boarding area.

I chose to remain standing, as had always been my wont, but regretted this decision in short order. Between the weight on my back and my shoes’ thin soles, I could feel, in my left Achilles tendon and right heel, the many miles which I had trod since Saturday, just two days before. So ready to burst did they feel, I could only surmise that something of the city had passed into them. At no point in the week ahead did tendon and heel fully recover from this city absorption, even with the long hours which I would spend seated.

At last, thirty minutes before the departure, the ticket agents appeared and ceded to our unvoiced, though no less heard, demands for entry to the wagons. The train’s electronic displays were out that morning, so I found myself forced to walk the entire length of the platform and still later the train before finding my seat in the A wagon. Once seated and faced with a two-hour journey, I entertained myself as best I could with looking my photographs over, cleaning my notes up and turning images over in my head to judge of their suitability for inclusion in this written account. In this way, I spent perhaps two minutes wondering how city authorities would react if the statuary in museums eroded as quickly as their open-air counterparts.

To the perspective box of the day before did I dedicate considerably more time. If I remained just as impressed that Flemish artists had known how to make a lifelike, open space from a flat surface, lenses and paints, it now occurred to me that their singular creations were not without descendants, at least by analogy. In my case, the challenge consisted in making a literary progression of a series of flat elements, otherwise without connection and interest, all the while introducing a measure of character into it all. In other words, the trick lay in giving the end result a depth which it did not have and which could only ever be the result of an illusory perspective from my own hand. And, just as in the original, the more observant would find without fail on the floor a letter bearing the creator’s signature, eccentric mark. At once, there was too much and too little of myself bound up in these travelogues-as-perspective-boxes. I was not positioned to say whether they might outlast their visual counterparts.

Between trains of thought, my attention returned to the countryside and human habitations rolling past. As it happened, my first sights outside the London metropolis confirmed what I had both suspected and later heard from others: the Anglo-Saxons had clad the country in drab brick at every opportunity. Though perhaps a touch redder here, tanner there, the materials remained the same from Lewton to Market Harborough. Everywhere did I find fire-hardened mud. My sightings of brick continued to grow to the point that it seemed as though the only matter at hand on these isles, mere mud-slathered outcroppings in the sea, was neither stone nor lime, but earth and water, and the timber to make something more of them.

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