February 1st, 2011

Rides on hot nights (mostly word-pictures only)

There is a tradition within British aesthetics of analysing nature and buildings from the subjective standpoint of a single person, the writer. Whenever I find myself reading and reeling from self indulgence, I have to catch myself, and remind myself, that we would still be stuck still with Aristotle and Kant were it not for privileged brats like William Gilpin, who had the audacity to describe the world as it appeared to no one other than him. 

In Gilpin's case nature was like a picture presented to the eye of an oarsman heading down a river in England, that I presume is still there. It's the River Wye anyway. Each vista unfolding as each bend is completed is described as though god were presenting it for Gilpin alone to apprehend and admire. Strange how, in hindsight, we can say a man's journal entries were about to ignite something so radical for the time as the Picturesque.

Fast forward to the 1950s, and Nicholas Pevsner describing San Vitale as an unfolding of vistas to the viewer walking along the ambulatory gazing into the nave—quite an unnatural thing to do, I discovered, when I went there last year and remembered what Pevsner had written. Fast forward again to about now, and Iain Borden's book about architecture and cities as perceived through his toes riding a skateboard. Self indulgent indeed, but as I say, there is this tradition. Thus, if I may:

Tonight I took a ride on my Promrose's Velorbis along the coastal strip where I live. A mile West of here it has been forty degree plus since 11 this morning. On the coast though, it has remained a full 10 degrees cooler. And since around 5pm, half a million from less fortunate postcodes have been in my privileged one for a swim.

How better to let them know I have not struggled with parking, than to do laps of the strip on a bike I could not have come far on. Oh, my artful avoidance of eye contact. The way I can make rolling my shirt sleeve seem so important right when I know someone is itching to engage me, by saying, "Nice bike." Half an hour later, I have been drinking, and I am writing. But while I was out there feeling self conscious about my fabricated perfection, I rounded a bend to behold a sunset straight from a cover of Awake in the Watchtower. I'm talking sunbeams like yucca leaves, buildings I know very well appearing as black stencils over the sky, and a cool ocean breeze straight from the Pocket Book of Cliches.

Now could I have had this great moment on foot, or in a car? No, because the space hopper tyres floating on sand on the path, the rapid succession of equally wonderful vistas before the one I actually stopped for, the dozens of pretty faces I had been furtively glimpsing in my heterosexual manner, and a few endorphins from putting out watts, were what made me finally stop upon seeing that sunset, and admit a state of bliss had beset me. 

Bliss begets thoughts of death, naturally, thoughts about the switch one day being turned off on all of this light, or equally dreadful are simply thoughts of having to go back to work. I've now been for a 10pm swim. Did you know it's possible to back-float under constellations you know from tattoos and actually listen in to the conversations of strangers? Their voices pass through the water. I've drifted irretrievably from the topics of pushbikes and/or architecture. Blame this hot weather. And blame 4 standard drinks, and a nice ride and a swim that this post will not have so many pictures.