Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jasmine Tea.

The two Januarys I spent in London saw me most afternoons leaving wherever I was to walk home through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and squint into a low, low northern winter sun, if the sun was out, and tighten down scarf and hat against the kind of wind we're having here today in 27408, a relentless wind out of the north and west that's really dragging itself through the leafless trees and reminding me of the very different sound a winter wind has from a summer one, a kind of naked low scrape and grind that brought me back after the dogwalk to make a pot of what's left of the jasmine tea I bought from a little shop at the intersection of Hogarth Road and Knarlesborough Place in Earl's Court, which is on page 83 of your London A-Z (pronounced "zed"), grids J4 and K4, for those of you scoring at home.

What I loved about those parks was the fact that you could come out of the exhaust and grit and subway smell of the city and within a hundred yards or so it all looked more like some kind of shoebox diorama, an exhibit a few very advanced high school art students had put together: Here is a city we made. Feel free to view it from the park. Everything inside the parks was so green, so much stiller even with the wind, so much calmer. Step out any gate and there are the bookshops again, the take-away sandwich places, the pubs, the tube stations. Step back in, and once more, there's quiet.

The parks made me ache like hell for the dog, though, which in turn made me ache for everything and everyone else. But I'd sip my paper cup of tea and keep walking, keep looking at all the dogs, the swans, the Londoners with their newspapers and omnipresent black umbrellas. Coats better than mine. I'd pull the A-Zed out and try to figure where I was, try to make the correct turns, miss AMR, miss NC, try to figure out a way to take my students back to the Tate Modern one more time, look forward to a pub dinner at the Hansom Cab (83 J3), to a table off in the corner with my book, and stuff my hands in my pockets, love my little three-week vacation from my entire life, head for home.

The front came through in full force. Half an inch of rain. All of that London business? That's what it feels like out there in 27408 today.

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