Monday, 12 March 2012

writing about architecture: place

Hello. This is open plan writing that has lost its fourth wall, don't write like this, it lets the rain in. I discover that six hundred words is a length that requires more structure to a narrative, some foreshadowed bait to sustain the youtubed reader's fleeting attention span to the very end. Thank you for your time, I can offer no collateral for the promise that the soaring comic arch of this narrative will touch down in the promised land of punch lines, character transformation and the affirmation of all you've ever hoped for. But promise I must. I promise there is another London, an impossible London, a London concealed in plain sight, a pregnant London, a London that is within us, but so much more than a state of mind.

The problem of writing-about-a-place is neatly the opposite problem of dwelling-in-a-place thus: try writing in the past-tense. Dutifully for the workshop's advice, I self-consciously shall. But consider the difficulty a moment: rather as we live in a tension between the now and the not-yet, we write in the tension between the now and the past-tense. Hence, in writing we take authorial power to confect a universe to live inside, albeit one naïvely constructed of present-tense unschooled writing. Whereas, in life we take a similar power to sell political dreams in the future tense, or to feign omniscient retrospective expertise in the past tense; but to live life in the now, now there is a fearful place, of holy moments, where you tread the invisibly thin line between what was and what is to come. Anything could happen. The kingdom of heaven is such a happening, it is a participle in the present-continuous-tense.

Today, however, it happened that I left the house at 10.15, it was that time, that is the time that it was, this is history. I walked down the steps from my last writing exercise, into the haptic, tactile, tic-tac-toe world outside of myself, beyond my cocoon. I adopted a gaiety of step that the magnolia gave license to. Fentiman Avenue appeared determined to carry on with spring despite the weather, and I was happy to cooperate. It was a familiar route, not over-familiar mind, this was no 'when one walks down..', it happened in that moment that I walked down, it was the gift of an unrepeatable instant, under a cotton scudded sky in a painterly spectrum of whites that will never happen quite the same again. It was the gift of those furry fuzzed emergent magnolia buds split apart at precisely that stage of exultant new-born blossom. Hello you.

I was not permitted to linger on metaphors to furnish writing exercises with for very long, a busy Saturday summoned. I crossed the Wandsworth Road, over a threshold between an altogether more cuddly urban grain and the bloated Nine Elms environs. I had discovered, at some pluperfect point last year, a shortcut through the wholesale flower market, a happy harbour in the eye of the urban planning storm of greater Vauxhall. Undisappointed again, today I was greeted at my haven by a three dimensional quantity of abandoned cut daffodils crying for want of a collective noun. A disaster of daffodils? I scooped up an arm of the second-hand seconds, they will have a second chance.

I considered that my future tense flourish at the end of that paragraph offered an excellent point to conclude my sojourn, but, having not yet arrived at six hundred words, I continued, confident that London promised more. Determined, I survived the length of Battersea Park Road's endlessly banal tirade of advertising, and, turning in past another-Tescos I climbed with a sonorous home-coming the steel stairs to the Doddington Garden. Welcome. At once, the ordinariness of the supernatural was busy all around me. The happy beds of soil we had cleared and furrowed were ready for planting, and so was I. Dear London, please believe.

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