England, 2014

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Allow me to once again match and marry my patchwork image of England in the span of my nine curious days there with the words I can skim from the top of my mind:

  • While sharing a sofa bed in a tiny but cozy rented apartment located in the middle of Bristol City, it occurred that a functional space can feel like home even under a few days, that it is more meaningful than space in excess, that a kitchen provides as a generous index to its owner’s personality. So a person substitutes stevia for sugar, has no cooking oil, prefers an abundance of herbs over spices, has color-coordinated plates and just enough silverware along with sachets of only peppermint tea – does this mean that he is health-conscious, well-organized, often on-the-go, not big on hearty meals because he eats to live? This sketches an idea and it tells a story of a certain type of occupant, a certain type of man. What does a kitchen that does not look or feel like an abandoned warzone of a malnourished adolescent say and not say? Perhaps he is frisky with time and has more important things to pursue than having 5 different types of cereal to sustain sleepless nights. Or am I being too sentimental on details here?
  • Oh, the glorious tiles of Harrod’s infamous Food Halls laden with fresh oysters, turrines, wondrous cakes and puddings and cookies, caviar, all the tea you would want, all the food you could dream about, an image of incandescent joy amidst the pervasive scent of something great mingling with something spectacular, intoxicating smells and sensations of a Christmas once conjured by an imagination sustained through a steady supply of fairytales and Enid Blyton books. Oh, the endless supply of beauty products to peruse at Superdrug and Boots, from the Sleek palettes to No.7 lipsticks. Oh, the aesthetic pleasure of going through racks of products marketed differently from what is offered back home and what was offered back in America. Being stuck in Primark and being smitten over the affordability of really very decent everything. And the books, the books, I brought back so many books back home. There was something sophisticated and more old-fashioned about England that felt vastly different from the open easiness of America even if one is not necessarily more dexterous than the other.
  • The liberation of having no roaming plan while figuring out tube lines with fists clenched in pockets, reremembering the feeling of being out and about in the cold, experiencing the still-crisp leftover beauty of Autumn, walking around in high-heeled boots feet arched dancing over pins and needles, bonding over books with friends old and new, depending on Lemsip to ward that flu away, having conversations over baklava and hot mint tea in a store that had the best moussaka as jazz played on in the background, wishing for more weight so as to not be flung about in buses and trains, seeing a quartet perform by the Thames river wondering if it was foolish to hope that they were doing it moreso out of pleasure and passion than anything, reveling in the art of people-watching and wishing scenes could be photographed through mere sight for later remembrance, listening to sad songs by musicians still alive and upbeat songs by musicians now dead.
  • Developing an unmistakeable and quick love affair for Bristol City with its scenic, bohemian and lovely self which offered with it cobblestone walkways, independent stores, secondhand books sold by the harbor, scatterings of Banksy graffiti, handsome cathedrals and museums as well as the endless, endless abundance of cafes and art, walking uphill and downhill, sitting on a bench atop Brandon Hill and not fretting to let the time slide by for once because there was no rush or panic even if the sun set by five everyday. There was an active exhilaration in being another face in a city very much new for the senses to still explore and you realize it is feelings in these type of hues that make you really want to continue writing and living.
  • Also, coffee was surprisingly decent everywhere.

7 thoughts on “England, 2014”

  1. I came here through Poskod, and the photograph of the Walkie-Talkie with all the gold in the background caught me. There’s quaint bookstore across the the British Museum in which you could find old Asian and African books–somedays you’d find Rumi, or some old Chinese philosopher who would take you for the afternoon and leave you in the evening. The first book I bought in London was a traditionally bound–blue and gold–copy of Wuthering Heights which then I forgot to read only to notice it, among my possessions, seven years later. It made me miss the city, my home, now that I’ve returned to this tropical place.

    The images you stirred in this post did that again–after a while one realises that longing is a luxury that fades and you ought to be thankful whenever, whoever by and whatever from, it is evoked. So thank you.

    1. Thank you for showing me why writing is important in the way it allows for a myriad of memories to be shared amongst an unseen collective.

      ‘Longing is a luxury’. This line is important and I am grateful for the privilege in stirring up the forgotten. The world is filled with beautiful things and I can only wish to do so much as an aspiring writer by reminding people of this again and again.

      1. The personal becomes the collective if a place is famous enough like London–but you pick out some strands and dye it your own colour. I did just that.

        I read some of your posts. ‘Aspiring’ seems to be a dull word to describe the quality of work you’ve produced. And I’m glad you understood that longing is a luxury–people are perplexed when I tell them that, as if desire is something to be shoved away or realised instantly so that it doesn’t bother us anymore. Longing is the impetus with which I write. It’s the blood of my work.

        As for coffee, there’s a little coffee house overlooking St. Katherine Docks. Should you ever visit again, go there. The river will keep you, and the boats will free your words. The coffee isn’t too shabby either.

  2. Thank you, that is very kind of you to say. Longing is most definitely a luxury — I find that emotions that were once so new and stunning tend to desaturate with time as the novelty of things slowly wear off. On a side note, I checked out your writings from your link and am in admiration of your work, both in the written and visual form. There is a graceful quality about them that I appreciate.

    If plans follow through and an opportunity to go to London arises once again, I will be sure to check out the little coffee house you mentioned. Any opportunity for decent coffee is an opportunity worth exploring.

    1. It’s odd, I was discussing just this with someone the other day; of how, at least it was my position that, though all memories fade in their own fashion, some will not disappear. Some refuse to.

      Thank you–you’re very kind. I’ve largely left the visual side of my art for a long time now, it’s mostly a relic these days. I felt your writing here was very organic–it’s seldom that I find that in people’s writing–and less in writings from this country.

      I hope your plans follow through–I miss the old city’s tea. It’s difficult to get good tea and scones here.

      1. Some memories are stubborn and time sometimes augment or subtract them, making them inaccurate in nature. Funny how they can be relived over and over again with such clarity.

        You’re welcome. You should continue taking pictures again, you have a good eye for it. I appreciate your sentiments on my writing. Honestly, there is nothing else that I love or need to do as much.

        It is difficult to get good tea and scones here, I agree. I suppose the surplus of Asian food makes up for it.

  3. Well a recent journey into the mountains have kindled my taste for photography again–perhaps it’ll continue. Oddly, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to include Malaysia into my writing and photography. It’s difficult–I feel I haven’t the language for it, even though I was born and bred here. I wonder what informs your writing? Does Malaysia inspire your work?

    Well, keep at it–I can see the love you invest in your work. Out of curiosity, do you find any place in KL conducive for writing? (cafes, nature, silence etc..) I keep searching and all I find are teenyboppers and loud coffee houses.

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