Let’s drive somewhere we’ve never been before, Sarah says. I leave our familiar circular route and take one of the many rutted tracks that leads to the Far Beyond. The car bounces over the small and hardened anthills that entirely cover its red clay surface. In the far distance, we can just make out what appears to be a settlement of mud houses – red, like the road.
“Architect-turned-milliner Gabriela Ligenza has teamed up with the London Festival of Architecture to curate a pop-up exhibition that explores the intersection between hats and architecture. Ligenza and multidisciplinary design duo You&Me commissioned a group of local artists, architects and designers to produce hats inspired by the city of London.”
The settlement looks ancient, but I sense that it was very modern in its time – whenever that was – even ahead of its time. Is this our time? I wonder out loud as we drive past a row of low, sturdy dwellings decorated with many blue hand prints, fanning out like the feathers of strutting birds. We leave the car at the end of the lane and walk to the labyrinthine heart of the village, where the narrow alleys are covered with sheets of hand-blown glass that reflect pools of muted rainbows onto the ochre walls.
I have been in a place like this before, Sarah says, craning her neck to look at the glass ceiling, in a small country that eventually toppled from the top of a large continent and crumbled into the sea. I suppose we’re lucky, she adds, being far away from so much much water.
We are hungry, and begin to look for a place to stop and eat. All the eating halls we find are filthy and full of stale air. We keep on walking until Sarah spots an open field, green and muddy, but festooned with tables and chairs and bright streamers hanging from bare-branched winter trees. The tables still hold the remnants of a recent feast, and noticing us, the waiting men and women quickly start clearing away the debris – I spot an entire cake (small, round, chocolate) being dumped into woven hessian sack. One of the women leads us to our table – a small child-sized one, with its sturdy legs firmly planted in the muddy ground.
Sarah and I shake our heads, simultaneously exclaiming, No, this won’t do.
The woman grins, as if we’ve passed some arcane test. I didn’t really think I could fool you, she says and takes us to a proper table, with proper chairs.
The table is already set, and two men arrive with trays of food, none of which I recognise, and in colours I have never seen before. The waiting men and women don’t seem to understand when I ask if the dishes contain meat. I realise that I’ve not seen any animals – domestic or wild – in the settlement, which is good news, or bad, depending.
“Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz are photographers and authors in New York City who share a desire to re-create, cook and capture some of the best recipes of the 20th Century that they either missed the first time around, or want to relive in their own kitchens.”
After our meal, we walk back to the heart of the village. On our way we pass a dry moat, its walls and bottom sprouting weeds from a multitude of cracks. We go into several small shops that sell trinkets and intricately embellished fabrics. In one of them, a slice of the moon is on offer.
Even though I find it hard to believe, my heart aches as we walk – empty-handed – back to find our car; my left hand opens and closes as I try to grasp its chalky smile.
Did you know that the moon doesn’t have any ‘weather’? (That’s why items left there by astronauts will remain undisturbed forever.)
I am rediscovering the collages of Katrien de Blauwer at the moment – the one below resonates strongly today. There’s definitely a short story there…
On her website I found this quote – Where must we hide when it comes from inside? by J. Taylor. (James Taylor?)
Another perfect gift.