...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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March 15, 2006 || 9:42 pm
Walking over London Bridge

Every day I walk down Bishopsgate and over London Bridge to work, against the tide of people walking the other way into the City. Especially this time of year, I think almost every day of TS Eliot:

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

It is strange to see so many faces every day and not know any of them - it really is a tide, "so many" - eyes not just on the ground but also staring straight ahead, through me. The bowler hats of Eliot's time are replaced with iPod headphones. People are not so much suited and booted as they used to be - there is a variety in dress even of these City folks, even of the men who do not all have identical overcoats or shoes. Not everyone is going to a bank or legal office any more - I see bodies that betray other professions by their trainers, or jeans, or flower-print dresses.

I try to walk right by the balustrade of the bridge, making my own little left-hand lane against the flow. Everyone has their morning faces on - unspeaking, set yet slack, a state which allows you to see them exactly as they might have been at five years old, or thirteen, or how they may be at seventy-five. Behind the careful, too-fresh make-up and hair, the presentation of an outward face that can allow the person behind to sleep on the train, or battle a hangover or marital row, there is something quite extraordinary in these morning faces, eyes open yet not needing to look at anything along the familiar route. Sometimes someone's mind will be far away, still at home or already at the office, and they will practically walk into me as though I wasn't there.

I can understand why Eliot saw these people as ghosts - this habit of walking over or through me is very like the practice of a ghost, as are the set, motionless faces blank with the residue of sleep and the resignation of going to work.



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