In Washington DC, Fall has arrived.
The seasons were more similar than different in London. With the more frequent, but not overwhelming, occurrence of rain there, I began thinking more about shoes (for some reason, I rarely notice dress shoes in the U.S.). Specifically, I concerned myself with the likelihood of my shoes getting wet and perhaps damaged during my walks to and from work. One pair of casual boots I’d purchased weathered the rain well, their surface dusking over time like an aging human being.
I don’t remember winter’s approach. The temperatures cooled somewhat, but not intolerably so. London sits at a favorable position in the jet stream current — the winds dip down from the north and west and across the city as they make their way towards the European continent. As a result, the city is actually much warmer than you’d expect.
In late January, the city fell beneath the spell of a rare heavy snowfall. I took off to Islington in the north of the city and met two friends at a wine shop called The Sampler. We topped up a pre-paid card with about 15 quid each and set about the roomy shop sampling quarter and half glasses of wine. Mostly whites. Warmed significantly after 45 minutes, we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant and watched through the steam rising from our bowls of pasta as the snow begin to fall in cottony flakes. I skated on streets near my home , knowing what the next day would look like. And I prayed that work would be closed as I turned on the television to watch the Super Bowl.
The connection of intertwined history, whether you accept it or not, does exist. And so, it was oddly unsurprising that in my first month in London I was idling up the Marylebone High Street and recognized an Indian face. Or rather, his white hair. My encounters with Amitav Ghosh in person began in Kolkata, and have been brief and accidental. First, it was outside the Bengal Club as we were waiting for our respective cars. Then it was at a small party given for him by a friend of a friend, and then on the street in central London. He was in town because his novel Sea of Poppies had been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. It didn’t win. This year, Hilary Mantel took home the 50,000 quid for Wolf Hall, a historical novel based on Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII. I haven’t read her book, nor Ghosh’s latest (lingering distaste from The Hungry Tide), but I’m interested that such a novel won this year, and on what basis.
Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: “Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting.
Jabberwock has a nice review here.