Passing a father and daughter en route from school. The young girl sports a traditional Easter bonnet. Apart from chocolate egg displays in shops an area (a country?) seemingly indifferent to a calendar event. The contrast with Berlin, where most businesses seem to indulge in various displays of Easter scenes, religious or just time honoured with the staples of rabbits, chickens and eggs. The secular society, still in the thrall of Christmas (albeit as a massive marketing exercise)?
Tourists braving the cold rain to capture the ‘ceremony of the blossom’. Combinations of women posing under the pink canopy of a cherry tree in order to harvest a portfolio of urban springtime nature. The preparation and juxtaposition of model to tree, the designated photographer staking out a pitch and the post-picture gathering to analyse the results.
Continental drift. Neighbours moving out. Passing a man loosening his rucksack in anticipation of photographing a magnolia tree in bloom. Further west, a potential old local from the ‘Railway’ pub now nurses a glass of beer in the new incarnation (a modern bar). A 21st century nuclear family. Mother, father and daughter all dressed in uniform black. Converts to a vegan revival. Clothing bearing the words ‘Herbivore’ (a hat) and ‘VGANG’ (shirts) to reinforce the unified message.
The proverbial (weekend) party is over. A sense of brief isolation in a hotel room in the post-breakfast gloom. The television emits an ambient alpine soundtrack on a ‘Sud Deutschland’ channel. Setting out east. A few shops, cafes and a library open, many remaining still closed. The pacifying chorus of sparrows en route. A natural counter to the constant hum of traffic. The return to old haunts. Familiar sights. A strange combination of melancholy and the notion of being (slightly) tainted by association. A little underwhelmed (familiarity breeding…) and yet comfort in the concept of the space negotiated seeming somewhat smaller.
Passing a small group of refugees talking through a wire fence, from the confines of their temporary home, to a local family standing on the airfield. A fluctuating camp of several hundred people from Iraq and Syria, giving a new purpose and lease of life to an iconic place of historic transit.
Walking from Charlottenburg to Mitte. An absence of frenetic traffic (or emergency vehicle sirens). The hum of a barge passing under a bridge, occasional birdsong. The uniformity of hearing (almost exclusively) one language (deutsch). The effect of comprehension on perception of sound, a ‘familiar chorus of conversation’. Being asked for directions, to a classic landmark, in broken english. The level of expectation. That these people are also outsiders/tourists/visitors, or that this language is the international currency for breaking the conversational ice? Parts of a city where the volume levels are expected to rise (but don’t?).
Thomas More, the utopian model in hindsight. British Rail/IWM. Mid-Atlantic rollers as water pours off the shoulder. A wave of (e)motion. West London lit up like a circuit board. ‘Space, time and the universe’ revealed on radio whilst gliding through the almost deserted silent suburbs. An occasional rectangle of light. The early shift, insomnia, isolation at dawn…The galaxy of corporate stars. GlaxoSmithKline and Premier Inn as corporate stars shining in the cold darkness. The modern milkman wrestles with a metal cage as he wields the goods from tailgate to supermarket. On the highway. A steady 75mph in the middle lane as the West Country moves a fraction closer.
A simple act of bread for the (semi) wild drawing a fixated small gathering. The feeding station evolving into a kind of natural science workshop as onlookers observe the pecking order (no pun), and the behaviour of a feathered cluster in the presence of humans with the offer of food.
A man diligently inscribing new bus numbers in his notebook with a red biro. Metres away, a woman installs herself in a (red) phone box to concentrate on texting, free from the rush hour throng. The hard copy/tactile/electronic/digital hybrid, tailored for personal advantage.
The well trod path, for more than one reason. A familiar negotiation past the ever changing/moving obstacle course of ‘essential works’, in the form of cones, plastic fences, metal signs, temporary lights etc…mounds of snow and ice encrusted earth, excavated from the heavy residue of the capital’s bedrock. A recollection of a medieval (rural) myth about the quagmire on Salisbury Plain becoming so vast that intrepid travellers would skirt around its perilous contents by up to a mile from the epicentre. From ancient aversion to contemporary compression.