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  • Writer's picturematilde tomat

IB 03 | [inner] travelling : London

So, there was this woman, perched like a vulture on the steering wheel of her brand new metallic blue BMW, on the M40; hair all coiffed, dark coral lipstick, doing probably 78 miles an hour, wearing what I can only presuppose a light grey Chanel 2-pieces in very light wool, smoking a long and fat cigarette. The inside of her car, while she flew past me, looked like a Cambodian opium den, like the ones you see in the movies. Anyway, she "stayed" with me the whole day.

I am still thinking about her while I am sitting here, in this secluded inner College Garden at Westminster. I think I must have been inside for an hour, and taking so many pictures. My plan was to stay longer, in awe and admiration in front of Isaac Newton, or sit next to Dr Livingstone [I presume...], or to have a chat with any of those figures there; find some inspiration and direction. Instead, the moment you enter, you are sucked into a sort of vacuum, with no will of your own, but engulfed in a disrespectful chatting crowd and waved about. So, the only thing I could do is resolve to take so many pictures and then infer, in the evening, what I have been unconsciously attracted to and "what I saw".

First of all, though, I have to admit I am so very proud of myself for having planned this day so brilliantly: a beautiful drive to Amersham, parked at Level 9 - I am actually writing it here so that I find my car this evening - taking the train to Marylebone, then a walk to Baker Street and taking the tube to Green Park and then a nice stroll to Westminster with my pre-booked ticket in an email in my phone... when technology works, it's amazing!

More than anything : I took the tube! All by myself! And I managed to stay there, all the time. For someone who used to suffer from crippling claustrophobia and generic anxiety, I was feeling uneasy, to be honest, but I still did it and I am very proud of myself. I also managed to walk slowly within the abbey, to stop and look and squeeze myself into the tiniest of places among so many people which I would have found daunting only a couple of years ago. All of this, while carrying my large backpack, walking stick, laptop, food, water, etc. on me at all times because I could not find, for the love of God, a locker anywhere.

Anyway… do I find any sense of spiritual connection? No, not when I am surrounded by chatty tourists, who could not give a crap that these grounds are still sacred and that this is actually a fucking church. Also, I was taught that you do not walk on resting stones! Those are laid - most of them - on top of burial grounds and you do not walk on them. I found this so irritating. It is just - again - picture picture picture click click click and stomping of their fat feet... with total disregard and indifference for other people's cultures and beliefs.

[Oh, a bell is playing...

... so many bells chiming

in celebration

and the sound

is just so good!]

So, back to the spiritual : no, I did not feel anything. I was surrounded by the energy of people who were not interested in the spiritual and like a fine-tuned arial I picked all sorts. In the end, this is more of a museum / mausoleum / cemetery / money grabbing experiment and not a church. It did not feel churchy at all. And even if it is...

--- oh, gosh, I can smell the food I used to eat at the Gianelline in Tolmezzo when I was very very very young, with the nuns, that kind of veg soup… where is this smell coming from?! veg soup and floating overcooked pasta… anyway, wow, that was something! it was like a wave. It came and now it is gone and it has left behind a scent of almost burnt grass. Also, I just noticed an inner-inner private garden… with two people sitting there and eating something, or having even a glass of wine… inside Westminster Abbey… where the fuck is the religiosity? Where is the devotion, the dedication, the surrender… that kind of pious, head-down attitude… --- I have also been visited twice by a robin redbreast with an injured right leg… ---

OUTSIDE Temple Church now. Good Girl! I also walked up a narrow spiral staircase and slid all around the navel upstairs and I almost froze in fear and when back downstairs I had to sit and rest and recollect my thoughts, while drenched in fear and sweat... but I managed and I feel very proud of myself.

Now let’s talk spirituality! And symbols : this place, actually the whole compound, is full of energy: you breathe a different era; there is something different, like if you are not from here nor from this century nor from this life. And you see people of all ages, there are restaurants, bars, pop-up pizza places and still! you breathe something different. It might be that I am actually starving, it’s 3 pm and I haven’t had any lunch so I really need to go somewhere and grab a sandwich and relax. My back is hurting now.

By using these places and this writing as a reference, I feel I am finding my voice. The voice of the researcher, the voice of an adventurous woman. Ok, I will here publicly admit that I love the DaVinci Code, I love Graham Hancock, I love reading books that are branded as pseudo-science; I am interested in old civilizations, I could watch those documentaries for hours, and I lose myself while reading stories of explorers, of those first geographers, cartographers, the first anthropologists. The stories of those pioneers in these new sciences. This is me. I love travelling but I also love to read about travellers. Psychogeography [and spiritualgeography] is close to my heart.

[pssst: don't say this to anyone

but I have been asking myself

why on earth

I am doing a Master in Fine Art...

why, actually, a whole degree in Fine Art?

I don't regret it,

but I still ask myself this question:

have I thrown away

some more years of my life


God, I am so so so tired and my feet are really hurting now. I’m sitting at Waterstones Trafalgar and this is finally good. Coffee, charging the phone with the laptop, and sitting down. The shop closes at 8 pm and it’s 4.20 now, so I do not have to rush anywhere. The coffee seems to be good. I am playing with the idea of phoning the campsite to ”complain” about last night… It’s really hot and I’m very very very tired. The National Gallery closes at 6 pm and now is too late to do anything.

Anyway, the big question is: I am here, writing, in one of my fav places: Waterstones at Trafalgar. Not much comes closer to this. This to me feels excitement, education, books and cafes… and there is this vibe of exploration and travelling, discovery and searching in order to find… WHAT?! What am I looking for? What am I searching? This is so frustrating! Imagine I am here collecting data for a book : there is this woman, backpack, books, coffees, and coupons for discounts. Comfortable shoes, knows how to read maps, sort of reads Latin, and would love to learn Ancient Greek. Has forgotten all the Akkadian she studied aeons ago. Her interests are hidden connections between spirituality and everything else. She recharges her personal batteries at the British, sneaking in unseen and touching old stones. She is also interested in the lives of other explorers. Do you know that I have been here since Monday and I haven’t written anything, I mean physically, in my journal… and it’s with me, here. Instead, I observe people, around me. That gentleman listening to some music, probably, and reading something interesting. Cotton green trousers, light blue shirt, trainers, black backpack [mind wandering for a while > if I wanted I could even take the Bakerloo line to Baker Street from here, and then change and get the train / tube to Amersham. Then, I can drive home*…].

Anyway, what attracts my attention here? I am not so sure: there is another young girl, with her laptop, and she is typing away… maybe she is not that young, actually! I would like a… thrilling experience in research, the finding of something amazing, and exciting. Maybe my life needs excitement. There is another guy, typing away, perched on a stool. I do not mean like a spy-thingy… but something that will take me travelling, looking for more connections and arcane symbols and uncanny words.

10 pm and I am back in my tent: salami, mozzarella, a beer and the leftover of the club sandwich I bought for lunch. Considerations re. last thoughts: in the end, after a non-proficuous search at the first Waterstones for a specific book, I went to the Piccadilly one… hold on a sec, something is missing : after the coffee, I went downstairs at 5.30 pm - I know coz the cafe closed and they kicked us out - and when there, I was looking for the last Aaronovitch. And then... and then I closed my eyes and waited for a "sign from a good book", something that would help me on my quest… I felt the energy calling me to a particular area of the bookshop. I moved there, closed my eyes again, and let the energy guide me and I took out and bought "The Book of the Most Precious Substance" by Sara Gran. Well, it “speaks to me” of alchemy, books, research, travelling, adventures… Someone might say that this is spooky, but it really isn't. I am there looking for a book which would help me on my quest and there I get a book about a quest! Then - here we are - I walked all the way to Waterstones Piccadilly where I tried to find another book: "The Modern Explorers" by Robin Hanbury-Tenison… and gosh, while I was on the train I read the intro and some of the words really made so much sense to me : adventure and exploration go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other; I mean, you can, but it’s not the real thing; then, you have to bring back a story, something new, an observation. Now, when I was on the train I stopped reading and looked at people, noticing what attracted my attention: I was trying to understand what a woman was reading. And there was another one, a local one, who entertained some tourists about her daily travels into London for work and her shifts, and contracts, etc and I felt somewhat sorry for her: she actually entertained the whole carriage and by the tone, mannerism and language used it felt she was showing off to the tourists. She had the closest thing to actually being a Londoner! and still, she made me feel sad, like a kind of poor man’s suburbanite. Then, on the way back to the campsite, I stopped at Amersham’s Tesco and there was a guy who was very attentively reading the label of a packet of crisps as if it were an ancient scroll with some magic writing. Then, on the motorway, I let a white VW golf in and he - because it has to be a he - he blinked as to thank me and then he indicated and moved to overtake the large truck in front of us and that indicate + move + accelerate + go was sexy… it was a perfect balance of movement, acceleration, shift, indication… it was perfection; it almost felt as if the whole car turned and winked at me in a very cool and alluring way.

Anyway, this is the thing : I like to observe people and then I write about them. No, not really true, I imagine stories, I give them colour. This is what I do: I observe things and people. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is my adventure. Reading about maps, travelling and travellers and when on the move, reading people. In this sense I am a psychogeographer: maybe this is really it. Maybe, this is simply it.

* I wrote home and meant the campsite. Freud wasn't an idiot.

Dates : 21 JUN 2023

Journey : car : 96 miles + train and tube : 26 miles

Steps : 17,787

Entrance : Westminster Abbey £24 + Temple Church £3 - both student discount

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