More specifically concerning: travel
21 December 2000 – Rome
21 December 2000, around 19.35.
Tumbled out of the train station in a daze, only to find myself in the Piazza di Spagna, surrounded by people, tourists and Romans, worse than any cliché; and such noise and such bustle. The Spanish Steps and Keats’s house caught at a cross-glimpse. By sheer good fortune I managed to find my hotel within […]
22 December 2000 – Rome
22 December 2000, around 19.37.
Spent the best part of the day sitting in and ambling through the Pantheon; one wonders what it must have been like before the later Romans came with their god and their saints, tearing out the older deities and the bronze rosettes for the baldacchino at St. Peter’s. The Pantheon is on such a scale, […]
23 December 2000 – Rome
23 December 2000, around 19.40.
To the Musei Vaticani in the morning; the streets were deserted and trees cast pale shadows onto the Tiber. Having not the faintest clue of a suitable direction, I wandered vaguely Vaticanwards and found I needn’t have worried: one can’t miss it. Waited in a rather long line for admission, then darted away to see […]
24 December 2000 – Rome
24 December 2000, around 19.43.
At the Protestant Cemetery, in the company of numerous over-attentive cats. I cannot help but feel, porter aside, that the cats are the guardians of the place, keeping the pigeons away, trotting amicably among the tombs. It is a strange place, calm, yet with a curious access to something else. There is the flutter of […]
26 December 2000 – Rome
26 December 2000, around 19.44.
Wandered to the Villa Borghese, a rather large park containing such interesting things as the British School at Rome and the Galleria Nazionale d’ Arte Moderna. It being a sunny day, I didn’t much mind getting lost, and wandered past and around the Temple of Faustina with much amusement before finding the Viale delle Belle […]
27 December 2000 – Rome
27 December 2000, around 19.49.
Saw a double herm of Epicurus and Diogenes the Cynic at the Museo Capitolino, which pleased me much in my soul. At the Palazzo dei Conservatori, saw a herm of Alcibiades, which I thought particularly appropriate and a Roman statue of a toga’d man holding a scroll, whose expression was wonderful, though ineffable. Later — […]
18 March 2001, around 14.52.
More laundry and packing and reading of A Concise History of Greece. Tidying things up in general, as a means of distracting myself from Roman history and the minutiae of Greek grammar. Also looking wistfully at the three library books I must return tomorrow; I’ve had them for six weeks, but have scarce made a […]
18 June 2001, around 14.11.
We students were trotted up Lycabettos hill, an occasion for profuse sweating and sporadic complaint, but the views rendered both bearable, the sun hesitating behind faint clouds, even Oedipus’ Cithaeron visible in the distance. Doorjamb at the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron; Attika, Greece (21 June 2001; usual camera)
28 June 2001, around 14.13.
What is one looking for in these cases, anyway? One could find an object lesson, an unexpected symbol, but one is unlikely to find what it all meant; it is a void, then, and scholarship a waste of time? Perhaps. One little thing, this fixation on an object, whether worthy or no; wisdom and understanding […]
5 July 2001, around 14.14.
Acrocorinth. One sees the world open out to the horizon, from the span of Attica to the slopes of Parnassus, across the tenuous isthmus, the Peloponnese now broken to an island by the works of man. On the isle of Pelops, taciturn rocks lie uneven as a rumpled blanket, jagged as a broken shield. From […]
16 July 2001, around 14.16.
It’s deeply complex: it’s not what you see. There’s a tension between what you are and what you know. One must read behind the phenomena, the surfaces; one could take hours, days, months to comprehend one column capital, working over the surfaces with a magnifying glass in search of scratches. This is scientific. Then there’s […]
21 July 2001, around 14.18.
Delphi – up and about just before six to watch the Pythian sunrise, the bunched mountains and outcrops of rock losing their dusky shadow to the warm necessity of the sun. The trees in the valley seem almost lush, but dwindle to scrub along the harsh and rugged walls. A stillness through everything – even […]
31 July 2001, around 14.19.
One muddles oneself with thinking, succumbing too easily to the temptation to compare what is with what might be – learn to be insensate, let things, let people, be as they are, and do not expect what cannot be given. Kerameikos and the haze of the Acropolis in the background. Athens, Greece (31 July 2001; […]
1 August 2001, around 14.20.
Piling pebbles upon the beach, the water laps against the sky, the low sound measuring time’s loss, the imponderable construction of a memory. Set one foot, then, in front of the other, and take no moment to look back, but continue – onward.
22.12.01 – Saturday
22 December 2001, around 14.07.
Sent the last of my applications off yesterday, along with a story to JC and treats for other people. Well, maybe it is a bit overbold to call that little booklet a ‘treat’: more of a glorified holiday card, actually, except, of course, that it has nothing to do with the holidays, red cover notwithstanding. […]
1 November 2002, around 16.08.
I know it is in bad taste to quote from one’s own letters, but this really is too absurd: Am reading some of the letters exchanged by Mommsen1 and Wilamowitz,2 the latter always offering to be of service in scrounging up inscriptions. I do wish I could totter about Italy complaining about the lack of […]
Twists & Turns
6 December 2002, around 11.19.
I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades Forever and forever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life! Life […]
With the greatest of ease
11 December 2002, around 11.24.
Departure The British are a humorous people; on the coach to Heathrow the driver urged us to ‘notice, please, ladies and gentlemen, that your seats are equipped with seatbelts. As you no doubt are keenly aware, there have been a spate of road accidents involving buses. In one of the latest, five people died, fifty-five […]
The Thirteenth Part
14 May 2003, around 8.08.
Xanthochroi, svelte from their xerophagy, were uninterested in xenagogical activities. Xeniality was by no means widespread; nor, it should be added, was geniality. Rather, the denizens wandered to and fro, up stairs and down, content to busy themselves only with themselves, giving never a thought to anything else. Thus were they deeply enraptured with their […]
31 May 2003, around 8.14.
From Francis Yates’s The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (p. 202): The years of peaceful life in his native country came to an end for Comenius with the defeat of Frederick at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 which meant, for Bohemia, the suppression of the national religion. The Bohemian Brethren were proscribed. In 1621 the […]
1 November 2003, around 9.02.
Tangier has been mentioned in history for three thousand years. And it was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his lion skin, landed here, four thousand years ago. In these streets he met Anitus, the king of the country, and brained him with his club, which was the fashion among gentlemen […]
give pearls away and rubies
23 May 2004, around 8.25.
From my new copy of A. S. F. Gow’s A. E. Housman, a Sketch.1 It was Housman’s custom to spend three weeks or a month every summer in France, choosing each year a new district, exploring it by car, and studying the architecture, the local dishes and the local wines. Usually he flew to Paris, […]
5 August 2004, around 2.43.
knees on a train
28 January 2006, around 3.03.
7 January 2007, around 21.46.
These days I spend a lot of time crossing bridges. Partly because we moved across the river from practically everything we are interested in; partly because, well because my feet are getting itchy again. It’s amazing how deadlines work – one puts things off, doesn’t think about them, and then the time creeps up when […]
24 March 2007, around 20.09.
My bookshelves look like a fighter’s mouth, full of painful and surprising gaps. Even books I thought I could not do without, books that shaped my taste and who I am, are gone. Let me explain. When we decided to move abroad I knew, of course, that most1 of the books would have to be […]
4 September 2007, around 9.50.
Boris Fishman, ed. Wild East: Stories from the Last Frontier 2003 Now a reader is in a sense complicit in the making of a good book; without the reader’s empathy, wit, and understanding, be the book ever so finely written and ever so well put together, any book can be called rubbish. I myself remember […]
of the times
12 September 2007, around 20.38.
fallen pears fermenting on the pavement indecisive days too warm and too cold leaden-eyed maidens drooping into evening slouching easily on an afternoon bicycle slumped down reading in a pillowed chair
31 December 2007, around 21.58.
The memory of cranes flying in rain-heavy sky, lit in low-slanting sunlight; tall grasses and the bounce and hum of a bus; gold-leaved crowns, and painted walls, dank scent of earth, and the brightness of the cranes, flying. Don’t know what direction they flew, nor what direction I went, but away from the past and […]
17 February 2008, around 19.15.
all the baggage
25 March 2008, around 17.38.
So I was reading Paul Fussell’s book about travel, Abroad. Of course it’s not just about travel, though he does spend some thirty-odd (or more or less, I’ve returned it to the library and cannot refer to it now) pages lamenting the impossibility of true travel1 in this degraded age of tourism, it’s about literary […]
20 April 2008, around 5.35.
In 1938 let us say, a bloke with small means wants the best of Europe. Once he cd. have done a great deal on foot. I dare say he still can. In 1911 there was an international currency (20 franc pieces) twenty such in jug-purse and no god-damned passports. (Hell rot Wilson AND the emperor, […]
29 April 2008, around 13.24.
Looking out the window of the coffee shop onto the overcast concrete, it seemed to have already become a picture, flat and filtered and filmy and flimsy. The sense of proportion was unmarred, but judging depth was a matter of relative position rather than perception, and a careless move might have scratched the surface, leaving […]
2 May 2008, around 6.00.
on fashion and the happy traveller…
moments of lethargy
4 May 2008, around 7.41.
We move slowly in the fading shadows of the morning, with a lazy, ritual weight of action.
at the mercy of confusion
8 May 2008, around 7.57.
In Jerusalem, I had spent much of my time among the books of Gulbenkian library, following the loose threads of Armenian history. But the massacres, I put off until the end. What I’d been reluctant to start absorbed me at once; it was that that I had been afraid of. Everything else seemed meaningless when […]
at a loss
21 June 2008, around 2.18.
There is something outrageous in a person’s misdirecting a traveller who has lost his way and then leaving him to himself in error, yet what is that compared with causing someone to go astray in himself? The lost traveller, after all, has a consolation that the country around him is constantly changing, and with every […]
12 July 2008, around 6.00.
This people lives on the smell of wild apples that grow there; and if they go far from home, they take some of these apples with them, for as soon as they lose the smell of them they die. —Travels of Sir John Mandeville (p. 181)
23 March 2009, around 19.47.
The journey from the capital to the southern cities has an allegorical feel, especially when leaving through the equinoctial twilight. We speed along the straightaways through the floodplains beneath the summits of unattainability, then slow to twist and turn through the vale of woe, night and snow falling hard through the trees. We rise through […]
city of stone
19 January 2010, around 8.50.
Birds of dark omen wait for you in the city of stone.
17 April 2010, around 4.57.
A cup of over-steeped tea brings back the memory of student days, bent over a book, surrounded by papers, the tea overdrawing and becoming tepid, forgotten, on the desk. Legs crossed at the ankles, or sitting on one foot, it is possible to forget time itself, to say nothing of a cup of tea. A […]
Crambe repetita (16)
7 May 2010, around 3.04.
Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia.
10 July 2010, around 2.05.
24 March 2011, around 7.36.
the importance of reading long books.
3 May 2012, around 19.51.
‘ a bitterly cold wind which drove the dust and tiny pebbles against our faces like a continual storm of hail’
26 November 2012, around 6.15.
facing the void…
1 January 2014, around 14.58.
the dangers of athletics…
11 May 2015, around 5.52.
A selection of ‘useful hints’ from Rambles in Rome (9th edition, 1903, page xiv) by S. Russell Forbes: Avoid bad odours. Do not ride in an open carriage at night. Take lunch in the middle of the day. This is essential. It is better to take a light breakfast an lunch, than a heavy breakfast […]
7 September 2016 – Paris
7 September 2016, around 19.12.
Day 1 (belated). Walked south and stopped in at the church of Saint-Séverin, built to honor a fifth century hermit. A Romanesque church was built on the site in the eleventh century, but the present structure is the accretion of centuries onto a thirteenth century building. There are some quite nice gargoyles on the outside, […]
8 September 2016 – Paris
8 September 2016, around 19.25.
Day 2. Walked north to Sacré-Cœur, because PF wanted to see inside before the crowds arrived. The last time we were in Paris (some six years ago) we sat outside on a step reading while a constant pulse of people took nearly 45 minutes to circulate through the building. I wish there had been a […]
9 September 2016 – Paris
9 September 2016, around 19.28.
Day 3. Headed west to go to Rodin museum, but spotted the late nineteenth century church of Saint-François-Xavier and stopped to look around. It appeared a suitable, sober, appropriate 19th century church and so, indeed, it proved. The lines were bright and clean, most of the artwork tasteful if mediocre – and I will admit […]
10 September 2016 – Paris
10 September 2016, around 19.30.
Day 4. Headed north and a bit east to the Picasso Museum – a lingering irritability about Rodin making us somewhat hesitant, especially knowing two floors of the museum are currently closed to prepare for a new exhibition. We needn’t have worried. The basement featured an exhibit by Spanish artist Miquel Barceló (one of his […]
11 September 2016 – Paris
11 September 2016, around 19.31.
Day 5. We have reached that portion of the vacation where we are no longer disposed to be pleased by anything – though we did make the obligatory pilgrimage to 12 Rue de l’Odeon while we waited for bookstores to open. After that, there was nothing to be done but retreat to the comfort of […]
12 September 2016 – Paris
12 September 2016, around 19.33.
Day 6. We decided to walk east along the Blvd. Saint-Germain until we got tired or could think of a destination. We stopped in at the late 17th-century church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, which had the eeriest sense of tension about it of any church I’ve been in. A priest patrolled the aisles, and such […]
13 September 2016 – Paris
13 September 2016, around 19.35.
Day 7. We went to Notre Dame first, thinking to climb the towers and admire the grotesques, but at opening time the guard estimated the line was already 45 minutes long – and to the unpracticed eye it certainly looked longer. So we decided to head to Père-Lachaise Cemetery (on which more anon) via the […]
14 September 2016 – Paris
14 September 2016, around 19.38.
Day 8. Took the Métro to the Balzac house museum – first time not venturing out on foot for these excursions. The Maison de Balzac is in the 16th arrondissement, just across the river from that dreadful iron tower. Like most house museums, it is an odd assortment of personal belongings and contextual clues – […]
15 September 2016 – Paris
15 September 2016, around 19.41.
Day 9. We intended to climb the towers at Notre Dame today, and waited in line in the rain for some twenty minutes to find out there was a strike and the towers were shut. So we went to the Centre Pompidou and found we had arrived forty minutes too early. We wandered away to […]
16 September 2016 – Crézan
16 September 2016, around 19.41.
Day 10. And at last we have arrived. It is autumn – the haws are ripening and the cyclamen are blooming. We’ve taken our country walk and are ready to curl up with a book.
17 September 2016 – Bibracte
17 September 2016, around 19.43.
Day 11. Our first real ‘excursion’ – to the Gaulish site of Bibracte on Mont Beuvray in Burgundy. Abandoned after the Roman conquest of Gaul (in favor of the town of Autun, which some scholars had believed to be the site of the battle of Bibracte – where Caesar defeated the Helvetii in 58 BCE), […]
19 September 2016 – Paris
19 September 2016, around 19.45.
Day 13. Reached saturation level for museums today. All the busts of Antinous merged at last into the unattainable; the funerary reliefs of society ladies looked at eternity with boredom; the sirens and sphinxes on red figure vases bemused and befuddled and bewildered. In short, it was worth the 45-minute wait in the mizzle. · […]
30 November 2018, around 14.39.
These are stories of desolation. Sometimes they are a voyage towards, and sometimes they are an attempt to escape from. No matter. The traveller ventures to modern ghost towns, ancients ruins, or the wreckage of their own lives, and never really finds any answers – because there are none, not to the questions worth asking. […]
28 February 2019, around 15.59.
I inquired for a walk, and, mounting near two hundred steps made round a rock, walked up and down for about a hundred yards viewing the sea, to which I quickly descended by steps that cheated the declivity. The ocean and these tremendous bulwarks enclosed me on every side. I felt the confinement, and wished […]
31 August 2019, around 10.02.
What was most interesting was the sense and use of time – the few hours, days, weeks passing from the spur to the flight – and the haphazard visions of memory run headlong. It (sc. This Tilting World) echoed, in propinquity,1 the promise of the narrators of The Glass Eye or Heartberries to create a […]
2 November 2019, around 13.08.
…he who does not grasp that life is repetition and that this is the beauty of life, has condemned himself and deserves nothing better than what will happen to him – death. Hope is an enticing fruit that fails to satisfy, recollection sorrowful sustenance that fails to satisfy. But repetition is the daily bread that […]
the cruelest way
28 December 2019, around 15.49.
On travel writing and leaving things behind.
the guest-room bookshelf
19 February 2021, around 14.22.
Not quite a guest-room bookshelf, ca. 2012. So many books enter one’s life through happenstance, rather than through the ordered chaos of book reviews or bibliographies or the propinquity of a library or bookstore shelf (each good in its way).1 This aleatoric approach to book selection is something I associate with travelling, and I like […]