Margaret Atwood, a Canadian, visited London in the mid-sixties. This is an extract from Curious Pursuits: Occasional Writings
, published by Time Warner Books on May 5.When not injecting myself with culture, I was looking for something to eat. In England in 1964, this was quite difficult, especially if you didn't have much money. I made the mistake of trying a hamburger and a milkshake, but the English didn't yet have the concept: the former was fried in rancid lamb fat, the latter fortified with what tasted like ground-up chalk. The best places were the fish-and-chip shops, or, barring that, the cafes,
(caffs?), where you could get eggs, sausages, chips, and peas, in any combination.
Ah, fond memories.Nick Hornby is eating a breakfast fry-up in a cafe close to his north London home and Arsenal football club. In the background, the coffee machine is making a noise like the beginning of the old Hawkwind song Silver Machine - something he's probably noticed. Hornby is not simply a football nut (an Arsenal supporter), he's a music nut and a literature nut. He may be a misery guts, but he's also one of life's enthusiasts.When he was teaching, he says, another teacher told him to teach Macbeth by getting the children to draw pictures of witches. "I couldn't understand how that was teaching Shakespeare; that was allowing them to draw pictures of witches. I think part of the reason I became the writer I became is because of teaching in a school, and you're always looking for this stuff that is really intelligent but really simple and everyone can understand it."
More recent, but has many resonances. I regret that I was never given the option of drawing witches during my A levels. I failed Eng. Lit.
Still, "stuff that is really intelligent but really simple and everyone can understand it
" does, he mutters wistfully, sound like Jakartass, n'est çe pas
Meanwhile, Diamond Geezer
(an Arsenal supporter) has been queuing this week as he spends a week off visiting the tourist attractions that Londoners generally don't go to.Kew here
On Thursday he went to Kew Gardens where he had the rare pleasure
of seeing a raffleasia (titan arum
- (amorphophallus titanium
) in bloom.
I blogged about previous sightings last year, where to see it here in its home soil and the Bogor Botanical Gardens founded by Stamford Raffles, here
.If you're in London and want to see the titan arum, you'd better be quick. The flower starts to fade and droop within a day or two, its pollination work complete, so I was fortunate enough to see it yesterday at its very peak. I see from the latest pictures that the single petal has already started to close slightly, and by Monday the central spike will probably have slumped completely.Antri dong.
This translates as 'queue, you bastard'. I will be commenting on some local bad habits tomorrow.