Friday, 15 May 2009

Temperate rain forest

I learnt in Geography - a much but unfairly maligned subject - that the natural climate of the British Isles is Temperate Rain Forest. I wonder if this is still thought true? Certainly, out on a London evening like this - unremittingly damp but mild as mother's milk - it feels as if you're walking beneath the dripping branches of a great and dark forest.

That's one of the things I love about London, that you can suddenly become aware of the layers beneath the contemporary city. It's like a palimpsest (the loveliest of words).

Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair are two exponents of the art of psychic geography, a discipline that is certainly more art than science. They're criticised sometimes for their disregard for literal truth and their indulgence of what the imagination can conjure up in its place.

Where we live - inner-city Islington - all the roads have religious associations. The area was the site of a chantry, where medieval monks would say prayers for the dead, helpfully nudging them on from purgatory. All swept away by the Reformation, of course, leaving just the street names and very occasionally an air of improbable and profound peace. The buzz of the city stops and all you can hear are the birds singing.

3 comments:

Kevin Musgrove said...

There are entries to alleyways in Clerkenwell that only exist occasionally and open up to courtyards and mews that last saw breath when Bonar Law was PM.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah, inner city Islington, a fine place to call home, and replete with the ghosts of Dickensian characters.

Wasn't Bonar Law one of the companies that Round The Horne's Julian & Sandy set up??

Kevin Musgrove said...

It was indeed Gadjo.