I’m researching a new book at the moment, and that involves wandering around London with my mouth hanging open, drinking too many cups of coffee and nearly getting run over a lot. Part of the puzzle is reconnecting London’s absurdly dense and convoluted history with its present-day reality, so I’m grateful for days like yesterday, when the river mists rolled in and the present day rolled back.
By the time I reached Kentish Town the sky was the colour of greaseproofed paper and the streets looked like wet pebble beaches. It was as if I had stepped into a sepia photograph; greens had become charcoal grey and even bright clothes looked as if they’d been colour-adjusted. The overall effect was like turning down the brightness on your computer screen to almost zero.
A great many of the buildings like this, the Southampton Royal Academy, whatever that might be, were now in 1885 instead of the present day. This is the best time to visit small parks, the kind where there are still gravestones stacked around the walls. It’s amazing how many London parks have graves in them – they were once privately licensed for burials – and I’ve always thought it odd how Londoners are comfortable eating their lunchtime sandwiches on tombstones.
By the time I reached home the mists were burning away, leaving a fierce milky flare in the skies that lit offices gold and pink. The perfect research day.