Life In London: July 2004 Archives

The Silent Traveller

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I mentioned in a previous entry that I miss that sense of strangeness that I first felt when I moved to London. I have found a way of recapturing it: by looking through the eyes of another foreign visitor.

I recently read The Silent Traveller In London, by Chiang Yee. A Chinese artists living in the UK in the 1930's, Yee published a number of illustrated books giving Englishmen the opportunity to see their own country through Yee's paintings and prose, both of which are simple, elegant, and clean. Yee's book about London has now been reprinted by Signal Press, and it's well worth a read.

Not surprisingly, Yee finds his new home city to be a strange land. "Had I not come to London," he writes, "I should never have known there was a special time for tea."

One Small Swede

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I am standing in the Marks & Spencer food store when something catches my eye: the package of bananas has a sticker on it that says "Ideal for the BBQ!" I am amused at what is clearly a labeling error until I look at the other packages of bananas. Every one of them has the exact same sticker.

Bananas? For the barbecue? This is the most baffling British food-label mystery since the jar of soup stock that suggested adding "one small swede, finely chopped."

I've always suffered from a tendency to get songs stuck in my head. It's never been as bad as some people's, but it's there nonetheless. My particular condition might be called Geographic Onset Stuck Song Syndrome, since it seems to be place names in particular that set it off.