Orbiting: London

From the Plague Journal 12/07/2020

At midday from Cambridge Station I got onto one of the cleanest railway carriages I have seen in years to Liverpool Street. Being so late in the day may have been why I had the carriage to myself, and even as I travelled south through various cities, no one else joined me, it was quite luxurious, I would say there were twenty people onboard the whole train.

It was nice to sit and forget about the world, to not be in my house and to feel normal again, even with a facemask on and the perfume of alcohol hand gel. The one thing I love about travelling by train is the views, looking into peoples homes and gardens, looking in at their world and thinking that the trampoline that likely means they have children, or the various conservatories and extensions properties have had. I even enjoying seeing how the blurred scenery changes from houses to fields and then to the industrial Tottenham Hale in a series of scattered wipes.

Into a tunnel lit by white disco balls the train slides with a La Monte Young symphony of train break screams into Liverpool Street Station, the railway cathedral of Edward Bawden made of iron.

The station is now one way and the flow of traffic pulled me towards Old Spitalfields Market where I met my friends Mark and Lawrence. Lawrence runs an art stall. If you don’t know the history of the market, there has been a market on the site since 1638 when King Charles I gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields, then a rural village. In the Victorian era was known mostly for selling fruit and vegetables. The market was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1920, to serve as a wholesale market and in 1991 the market was in the heart of the city and made it harder to trade from, so it moved to New Spitalfields Market, Leyton, and the original site became known as Old Spitalfields Market.

On Lawrence’s art and sculpture stall was a had a painting by Fred Dewbury. It is odd how a painting catches your eye and the infatuation of owning something takes hold. I asked the price and orbited the market to think about it. Rather like my train journey in I kept seeing the painting from different angles and view points as I circled around. On the train the houses and trees were blurred as I was moving past and as people got in the way or the sides of the wooden market stalls blocked my view point I realised it was the picture looking at me. Needless to say I bought it, but it’s rare to look at anything from such different angles in London these days unless it is St Pauls.

On my train journey home the same buildings and trees past me but it had started to rain and was getting dark, the stage scenery was the same but the lighting director had gone to work. The square windows of someone’s home became Christmas lights for me, a glitter covering the towns as my train washed down the tracks like a duck on a river.