The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can’t come again,
But is for others undiminished elsewhere.
There’s long spells – three days, years – when you can’t see a thing, know where you are only by the speaker sounding overhead like a bell buoy clanging in the fog. When I can see, the guys are usually moving around as unconcerned as though they didn’t notice so much as a mist in the air. I believe the fog affects their memory the same way it doesn’t affect mine.
Back in August, we found ourselves with a handful of hours to spend in Bergen. And so it rained – and rained. Accustomed, as I am, to the Mancunian way, we raised our hoods and carried on, ducking straight into Bergen Kunsthall, then hopping next door to Kode – the highlight being an unassuming collection of works by Queen Sonja herself. Babe.
With time pressing, we reluctantly skipped Lysverket and/or Marg & Bein, making do, instead, with a quick smaksplanke – beer-flight, to you and me – in Apollon, a pit-stop in Pepper AS, followed by a super-trad lunch at Pingvinen (think meatballs, entrecôte, lashings of gravy – and a side of just-because lapskaus). I say making do, but there wasn’t a bite or sip we didn’t adore. We didn’t get to see the coloured houses (Bryggen) for which the city’s famed, but we did take the Fløibanen up for a better view of the rain. Despite – or because of – all of this, we well and truly fell for it. In a bit, Bergen.
The only conscious influence I had as a writer was Beethoven. He has the ability to make everything so simple it becomes profound. He knows, to perfection, how to hammer a phrase into your mind, repeating it over and over, yet always stopping at precisely the right time. And his work is beautifully inevitable, yet never predictable, no matter how many times you hear it.
Another blog so soon? I know. A few things that couldn’t wait:
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele opens in London tomorrow. Better still, it opens in Stoke Newington’s Church Street – aka just up the road from us. I don’t care how long the queue is: I’m queuing. When we visited Naples (May 2015), I insisted that we passed the original every day to sample the kind of street-side arancini I cannot do justice in words. That I might taste that taste again – heavenly, heavenly.
Alain de Botton’s My Writing Day in the Guardian. When a piece of writing resonates so hard you just have to shout about it. It can be the greatest freedom, sometimes, to have to repress some of what you are. I sit quietly for hours. I’ll have a sandwich at the desk. I can’t sink into despair, scream or act all poetic: other people are watching. At the office, there’s a chance to edit yourself, thankfully. That’s why I go there.
My Acne Canada scarf. Let’s face it: I’ve been eyeing it up forever – plus, I start a new job in March and you know what they say: new job, new scarf. Plus, #investmentpiece. Plus, THE PACKAGING, THOUGH. So many heart-eyes.
Though it may oft-appear otherwise (because I’m always banging on about my favourite new pasta dish or my favourite new jumper), reading is my favourite thing. As a child, I did little else. While the rest of the street was ‘playing out’, I was inside with a book or six – which is probably why I find it so irksome that it’s now something I have to find time for; and, if/when I do successfully plan it into my day, I can’t concentrate like I used to. I’ll leave it to the professionals to decipher why that is – though, of course, it’ll be something to do with the fact that I spend most of my day hopping from tab to tab to tab (work/pasta/jumpers)…and podcasts in bed. All of this is not to say I’ve stopped reading (I read nine books last year) – just that that’s not enough for me and that I’m troubled by the fact that my mind wanders so easily and so often. And so, on that note, to the year ahead: a concerted effort to make time for reading, to improve my concentration when I do, and to beat last year’s nine. I’ve already eased myself in gently with Tony Hawk’s Round Ireland With A Fridge (dated, but heart-eyes to Ireland); reminded myself why it’s my favourite with John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold; and, just yesterday, got started on Paul Beatty’s Man Booker Prize-winning The Sellout. Keep it up, logsy.
with a green shade, but the glow of the arclights, like artificial
moonlight, filled the cabin. Darkness had fallen, and with it silence.
They spoke as if they were afraid of being overheard. Leamas went
to the window and waited. In front of him the road and to either side
the Wall, a dirty, ugly thing of breeze blocks and strands of barbed
wire, lit with cheap yellow light, like the backdrop for a concentration
camp. East and West of the Wall lay the unrestored part of Berlin,
a half-world of ruin, drawn in two dimensions, crags of war.
Leaving politics at the door for the next ten minutes: I’d been to New York three times before we went again at the end of last month. We’re talking aged 10, 12 and 21 – so let’s just say: it had been a while. Despite my three-timer status, I’m still a novice and I still get caught out by $22 G&Ts and tasteless breakfast grits. That said, my city-break skills have improved with age, so I like to think I really got some things nailed, this time. Things like:
The beer. Hands down, it’s got to be Brooklyn’s Tørst – largely thanks to its drinking vessels, but also thanks to its delightfully Danish-inspired interiors, an extensive and varied beer list, knowledgeable staff and tasty bar snacks (plus a seasonal tasting menu offered out the back to those in the know – but you don’t need to splash out in there to make the most of the rest). Meanwhile, over on the edge of Manhattan’s East Village, nip into McSorleys Old Ale House for a taste of the real thing.
Pizza to die for. You know what they say: if it’s good enough for Beckham and Beyoncé, it’s good enough for me. With that in mind, get yourself to Lucali on Henry Street in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens, don’t be late, and order everything (I mean it). Without doubt: my favourite pizza experience ever – and I’ve been to Naples. We also happened to be staying around the corner from Roberta’s which doesn’t rival Lucali but beats anything I’ve been lucky enough to find in London.
The steak. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be steak in NYC if you didn’t a) eat it in Manhattan and b) have to dive into your savings to pay for it. Tick and tick at Keens. Perfect service & perfect food served to our white-linen clad table in the cosy booth we didn’t even have to ask for. For the win. My only regret is that were off to a gig so I couldn’t take my leftovers (there were many) with me.
Falafel. Sorry, we’re still on food. But if you’re crazy for a bit of the chickpea good-stuff (who isn’t?), head to Taïm and watch the Nolita (or West Village – there’s one there too) world go by. We found it to be the perfect lunch-time pit-stop – for those times when you’re ravenous from all that shopping, dinner’s still hours away and you’re after excellent, tasty value for money.
The bridges. Okay, okay. So Brooklyn Bridge just has to be done. I’ve trod its boards four times now and it’s true – it’s iconic and makes you feel like you’ve really arrived. However, can I just bang on about the Williamsburg Bridge for a moment? It may be long, but it’s also gun grey and bubblegum pink and all kinds of brilliant industrial mastery. Aka: love at first sight.
A view. Controversial though it may be, Top of The Rock still wins for me. It’s a great view of Central Park from the Empire State, granted. One World Observatory would’ve been a better view on a better day (hello, haze) but overall feels like one big up-sell. It’s Top of The Rock, I’m afraid. There’s something about that fresh air, all the way up there, and those uninterrupted views that the glass surround allows. Meanwhile, for a Brooklyn → Manhattan view, while you’re actually sipping a Brooklyn View (Greenhook gin, Velvet Falernum, grapefruit, bubbles), I know just the place…
The Wythe Hotel. Unfortunately a bit out-of-my-league when it comes to being an actual hotel – but that doesn’t stop me soaking up the frankly breathtaking view from the Ides Bar (as mentioned above), dropping in for brunch at the Reynard, and picking up a (very sturdy, can I just say) tote bag from the shop in the lobby. I can at least pretend.
The shopping. Far too many to mention, so I’ll make it quick. The totally delightful, wanted-everything In God We Trust in Brooklyn. Shout out to the super-helpful staff in the Williamsburg branch. And in Manhattan: The Frankie Shop – which apparently has a Parisian pop-up sister. Far closer to home and the perfect excuse for nipping to Paris ASAP. À bientôt!
Soon I will tell you all about New York. It’ll be a tale of Bushwick mornings (below), tote bags (several), love-at-first-sight (Williamsburg Bridge) and pizza to rival Naples’ own (no, seriously). For now, though, read this sublimity – Donald Hall, The New Yorker – and weep.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Four months, I see. Things have happened in that time – as things are wont to do – but, of course, it needed a quick phone-scroll to tell me what those things were. Turns out they’re both the usuals (birthdays and weddings and Glastonbury and Edinburgh) – and, as good fortune would have it, the unusuals (Lyon via Paris and Radiohead and Slovenia and I’m going to be auntie – auntie logsy! World’s-most-excited-auntie badge in the post!). And, so as to keep on that latter theme of the extraordinary, it’s to New York we go in two weeks, to call a warehouse in Brooklyn home for a few days. Oh – and I almost forgot – it’s September 2016, which means the 30ths are good to go. Oh, we do have some fun.