An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys.
London is a city that sleeps too much. This is the mould of its quality. A magnetic contract: to reinvent itself on the other side of dream, each day. And such dreams, smouldering against the tidal spine of the river, telling and retelling the tales that must be told to manifest a city’s bones. Whispering the night architecture back into stone.
As you withdraw energy from the city, you are also giving energy back. People are noticing you. You’re doing something, you’re there, the species around you absorb your presence into it, and you become part of this animate entity called the city.
Walking around becomes actually difficult. But the walking process is the oldest natural form of movement. It puts you literally in touch with the earth and the weather around you and allows you to get into conversation with people as you move, which seldom happens in the other ways we move.
For the bookish, London is a book. For criminals, a map of opportunities. For unpapered immigrants, it is a nest of skinned eyes; sanctioned gunmen ready to blow your head off as you run for a train. When the city of distorting mirrors revealed itself, through its districts and discriminations, I discovered more about London’s past as a reworking of my own submerged history.
Life and career are the same thing. Every life has to have a plot and a plan. You have to recognize this early and be quite cold-blooded in the discovery and articulation of that plot.
The line of traffic advancing towards the rising sun looked like a procession of the returning dead. Every one of them, solitaries in clean shirts, smoking, checking mirrors to see if their reflections were still there, wore dark glasses.
Culture isn’t all just about what can be tweaked and twitched in the simplest possible way. As people move around, they literally don’t see what’s around them, because they’re wedded to earworms that are burrowing into their heads endlessly in a kind of negotiation with these tiny screens.
I got interested in the contradiction between people who are understanding the city by not moving a single inch, by remaining in the same place all the time, and people like me who are constantly roaming around.
People are moving faster – you can see that in the streets. Partly that’s because of the electronic devices, which encourage this.
As you become known, the demands on you are such that you get less and less time to do the things you want to do. But if there are no demands, then that means nobody wants to read what you’re doing anyway, so you’re stuck.
It’s just a freak of fate that I’m paid to write, not paying to print my own books – but I’d be doing it anyway: it’s my life.
You’d better make it your business to understand the market. The ability to charm or play the game is useful.