Outside the window is a sweet-chestnut tree, inhabited by blue tits, doing what birds do in Spring. The window belongs to a characterful room atop a Georgian hotel in Bedford Place, which is probably the best street in London to bed down. In the evening a dog fox’s bark is the only sound of the city, looking for some vixen nightlife. Down the street in Russell Square the tulips are wide awake, and the British have loosed their stiff collars and inhibitions and are sprawled out on the grass. It’s twenty degrees, which feels like melting point after six months of frost, and the kids are jumping naked in and out of the public fountain. People are smiling. English people, even in times like these, are smiling.
The poet is here on a flying visit, having had long-stay ambitions curtailed by unforeseen circumstances. He has been re-united with his wife, after an unexpectedly long visit to the Americas, and she has brought with her the necessary accoutrements of his summer: linen and loafers. Life looks very well with linen and loafers, after the London winter shroud has lifted. The poet now pads around his favourite neighbourhood, marking his territory, on a lazy Sunday.
First thing this morning, while foraging for food, an elderly man called out ‘hello’ to the poet, and as he looked up the old man took his photograph. ‘Hello’, said the poet, somewhat surprised.
‘Are you British or foreign?’ aksed the man, in the friendliest manner possible for such a question.
‘I am English’, replied the poet, wondering why it mattered (and, for that matter, how there could be any possible doubt).
‘Well’, the man went on, ‘you look very smart. Don’t tell me you haven’t been home yet’.
‘Alright,’ said the poet, enigmatically, ‘I won’t tell you’, and they parted smiling.
This kind of encounter happens more regularly than it used to do. Our bard does not know whether it’s him becoming more approachable, or the world getting nicer, but he dares to hope it’s something of both. In any case, it’s the kind of thing that happens to him in Bloomsbury, on sunny Sundays especially.
He arrived here yesterday afternoon and immediately indulged in some St. Austell beer and haddock and chips at the Marquis Cornwallis. British pubs, especially in London, have become so reliable in recent years for the quality of their food. He returned today for a healthy dose of roast beef, followed by a peek in the local second-hand bookshops, a stroll around the neighbourhood, and finally returning to his Georgian perch for an afternoon nap. Outside the window there is a chatter of beaky friends, and the distant hum of life. For once he will sit still: sit still and write, and wonder what the Bloomsbury set were so upset about.