Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hidden Well-th

Visiting the sights of Istanbul, you would never guess that under the hill on which you walk is a cistern, a man-made cavern capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. A cistern built 1500 years ago to provide fresh water to the Great Palace of Constantinople on First Hill. Stumbling down the narrow stairs, it's hard to imagine what to expect at the bottom for there's no grand entrance befitting of this engineering feat. As you reach the bottom of the flight, a seemingly endless cave opens up before your eyes. Illuminated in warm red lights, the classical grid of columns disappear into ambiguous light then inky darkness. As you wander between them, mirrored avenues open up, before blurring as the waters beneath your feet vibrate with life blurring the symmetry of the decreasing arches.

The surge of ravenous fish remind you of the stories of locals above catching fish in their backyard wells, wells which possibly penetrated the structure of the waterproofed roof and re-discovered a forgotten marvel. In one corner, two versions of Medusa's head support the roof. They lie at angles, sideways and upside-down, supposedly to negate the power of the Gorgon's stare though this is the first I've heard of it. 
The dim red light there produces a kind of eerie romanticism, but don't look too closely for the red light hides the film of green algae that accentuates the features of Medusa and brings into contrast the patterns of the 'peacock-eyed' column.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The meaning of life...

For the last month of my time in London I worked for a company who's offices were just off Oxford St, my window overlooking an intersection and the entrance of one of London's biggest stores. Despite being on Oxford St and tolerating the shopping rush every afternoon as I fought my way towards Bond St Station, I enjoyed the location.

In the morning the street was wide and deserted, the only people present were workers like me, rushing to get to their computer screens in buildings overlooking the length and breadth of this infamous shopping strip, or shop assistants who landed the early shift and have to open in time for the inevitable onslaught of customers.
By lunchtime the crowds have arrived, but by then you were hungry so you'd become a woman on a mission. You knew the choice the area offered and so made a headlong dive for the nearest shop that will supply your stomach's desire today. With just a wallet in hand, it was easy to manoeuvre through the growing crowd and be out and back in minutes, allowing you to enjoy your hard earned lunch with the personal space your office desks provides.
The evenings were more dangerous though, for not only were you now juggling bags and coats and potentially umbrellas too, but your time was now your own and how you chose to spend it entirely between your conscience, your wallet and you. Oxford St is a dangerous street for it is the ultimate high street and if what the street doesn't stock, the departments stores thereupon are bound to stock.

However what made this particular office memorable was not its location, even when the Olympic torch passed beneath our very feet. Looking out of the third floor window perched within the glass projected corner of the office I recalled the imagery of the Permanent Assurance Company from Monty Python's Meaning of Life sailing through the big city as though the buildings had parted way for them alone. I don't recall why, but this singular imagery of the old Edwardian building, noble and silent in its purpose gliding down the deserted streets stuck with me throughout my month there and did something towards relieving any seriousness and drabness that can come with London office life. 
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