Monday, 16 November 2009

Day 5. Sat 7th Nov. London Calling

A day for writing emails and for sleeping in. I have moments of utter exhaustion and today was a long lie-in. I missed Julia this morning. Our weekend breakfasts in bed seemed impossibly far-off. Muesli and coffee was not on the menu and I couldn’t find my usual enthusiasm for noodles. I listened to London Calling by the Clash, which was kicking around when I was a 6th Former. It’s a grand swaggering rocknroll album, so chockfull of British anger and humour, that it made me yearn.

Slowly however, I’m acclimatising to difference. I generally hate change – am a creature of habit and regime, albeit in a disorganised way – but the new street sounds are less jarring to me now, they harmonise. The electronic songs that I heard on my first morning are the megaphones used by streetvendors, singing their wares. The strange cooking smells are the particular herbs and spices that constitute Chongqing hotpot - there are two restaurants at the base of my apartment block and the morning cookery aromas rise up to me. (One morning I saw the chef heaping chillies into a vast wok with a shovel.) The ominous rumbling noises from the road are tanks and armoured troop carriers, which I will see maybe once a day. The continual traffic horns don’t signify a pileup, they’re simply a conversation held between motorists. They dogs haven’t bitten yet and no one has mugged me. Perhaps it’ll be OK.

I mooched about the studio awhile, catching up with emails and sorting thru ideas for next week. The studio is a palace among artists’ studios. It must be 4 metres high, and perhaps 100 metres in length by 8 wide. In a red brick building, like the old Manchester warehouses, it was originally used for tobacco processing. Then there is some haziness about use – perhaps military provisions? – some suggested it was a tank factory? – and now the whole building which is four storeys high and thousands of cubic metres in capacity, is broken up into a complex of artists’ studios. As well as capacious space, Yan Yan’s has a superb stereo, a relaxation area with sofas and tables, a small toilet, a wash basin, tea and coffee making facilities, a wide range of tables, shelves of art books, and even two raised platforms which constitute an upstairs. For a poet who tends to work in cafes, the immediate impact on me is that of scale. Suddenly instead of writing in notebooks, I can stretch out onto a much bigger page.

And then once again down Longyin Lu – still no Yangtze.

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