I’m working on a new writing project for 26 and the Bloomsbury Festival. The brief is wonderfully – and worryingly – wide. I’ve been allocated one square mile of London’s Bloomsbury district; I need to write something inspired by it. Max 500 words in any form, plus a haiku. The idea was that I’d wander around, flaneur style, moving from pub to cafe to street corner, looking for inspiration in the hustle and bustle of city life. But then lockdown came along: I couldn’t leave home; the bars and cafes were closed; there was neither hustle nor bustle.
Last week I finally ventured up into the City to do my wandering. It was quieter and emptier than I thought it would be. All a bit grim, to be honest. And it was strange to mooch about purposefully looking for something to pay attention to, to be astonished by, to tell about. From my notebook: “A depressing walk up from Charing Cross to Russel Square. A few shops are open, but nobody in them. Waiters standing in the doorways of empty restaurants, waiting.” And this: “There are 19 concentric circles of stone around the fountain, closed and marked by a cone. If you count them you will discover that you’ve wasted your time.” And this: “In the Caffe Tropea the tea flows, so does the Italian, but business is slow. A man reads a pocket German dictionary.”
So yeah, nothing really working, no inspiration happening. I want to go home. It’s too cold to be wearing shorts. I’ve walked all the streets in my square mile, except one: the Colonnade is an old mews that runs behind the tube station. I turn the corner, and bam! There it is, right in front of me, waiting on the corner. It’s obvious that this is my subject, my inspiration. I don’t know what it is, or what it’s doing there, but from the name alone, I know this is the place I’m going to write about: The Horse Hospital.
#12 of 30. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.