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footnotes, appendices and apparatus to the anatomy

grouped loosely by subject


16. on the Failed City


...for no particular reason...

Later on Hunter Sidney qualified this, telling me that the garden was probably informed by its position at, or more precisely its function as, one ganglaic extreme of his daily commute.

Hunter Sidney worked for nearly thirty years at the Shell building in Waterloo. For much of that time he liked to think of his return journey from work as cormorants, guanoa metamorphosis: an unperplexing or carding, as he put it, of the chaos of his job into workable filaments of proper industry (his plants, his soils, his techniques of propagation). He left the beetling Shell Centre, which was in his imagination a guano-encrusted cormorant colony; sat meditative and silent in the train carriage for twenty-five minutes; and then re-emerged into a garden which was underpinned by order, silence, immobility, where he could work carefully and with purpose.

But the garden was not immobile. The plants were growing determinedly, aggressively, invasively; they were propagating themselves. When he sat at the small iron table he was surrounded by them; lush and heavy, they blocked his light, tickled his neck, smelt of decay.

Not that different from the office, then. Both garden and office were not only sensate and alive, he began to see, but were extensions of his sensory array. He was responsible for both: they were his capillary interfaces with the world, and they were linked - perhaps made - by his constant shuttling between them, a solitary bit of information.

The alteration he underwent as he sat in the train, in other words, was a simple illusion. He was an actor in a well-appointed theatre of relativity: the scene changed smoothly around him, worlds thrown up and castles thrown down, but the actor was motionless. Whether he was Gurnemanz or Parsifal (or for that matter Amfortas or Titurel) didn’t signify; this was not a fundamental, only an emblematic, translation. Wherever the train set him down - work, Norbiton, garden - there he would automatically begin to extend himself into the world.




It might fool the king of France.

Francis IThe King of France was eager to retain the services of Camillo, and paid him a handsome retainer to that end. Camillo was eager in return that his secrets should be fully revealed only to the King in person.

Unfortunately for both, the need to have the entire arcane system of the universe translated into French threw the project and Camillo into fatal confusion.

Why this should be so, given that the hieroglyph is a universally obscure language, can only relate to the storage system of the theatre - it seems that behind each image were sheefs of printed and handwritten matter; presumably in remembering - seeing - where a particular tid-bit of knowledge was stored was also to know why; and that would act as a mnemonic prompt.

According to Viglius Zuichemus, writing to Erasmus an account of his visit to the theatre,'The King is said to be urging that he should return to France with the magnificent work. but since the King wished that all the writing should be translated into French, for which he has tried an interpreter and scribe, he said that he thought that he would defer his journey rather than exhibit an imperfect work.'

A familiar predicament.




...Clarke is awake and restless...

Clarke complains that he sleeps badly at the junction of late autumn and winter, because the hours are out of shape.

Before the standardisation of unit time, he argues, a night and a day were equally divided into twelve, regardless of their actual length. The hours at night in winter are in consequence lengthening and cracking, and since he prides himself on being what he calls a 'brisk sleeper', it takes him some time to adjust to the sluggish night rhythm.

This is clearly nonsense so far as Clarke's broken sleep is concerned, but it is reasonable to wonder if those psalmodizing monks, for example, were alive to the slow stretched hours of a winter's night, or the corresponding briskness of the daily hours.






...with a structured and structuring ornamentation.

For all Clarke’s rhetorical skill, which I have both preserved in spirit and improved in detail, I am forced to admit that I have the emphasis here somewhat wrong: the Palladian North End was not conceived as a bauble or toy to his new found daughter, but as a placatory gesture to his wife.

Veronica de Viggiani, the daughter in question, has told me something about her involvement with the Palladian North End.

She said that Kelley was already standing in the building site in atonement for various sins of omission – chiefly, failing to give his wife a child of her own, and failing to acknowledge his prior fatherhood – and was puzzling over blueprints, laying foundations, as though in this jigsaw of builder's materials some combination might be found to the conundrums of his life, when she confronted him for the first time.

They had been in touch by letter so it was not a complete surprise. Veronica was an art student in Dublin, and she took her errant father now in hand: in her own words, she guided his builder's hand over the smooth logic of classical ornament, showing him mouldings and capitals in books, impressing on him the need for a certain bald simplicity and monumental directness, all to be derived from the most volatile-seeming decorative elements.

smooth logic of classical ornament


And so the Palladian North End took shape. Veronica stayed with Kelley and his wife, unaware of any friction. And if the stand became hers, rather than Mrs Easter's, it was anyway never clear that Mrs Easter had ever wanted it.




...that is South London.

Burial of the dead is not now a mystical or apotropaic business, an appeasement of the ancestors, but a municipal infrastructure problem.

South London is where the city laid that problem to rest, a continuity of the dead rising to the surface here and there like beds of sedimentation : Surbiton to Kingston, to Putney Vale and Putney Old Burial Ground, Wimbledon and Wandsworth, West Norwood and Nunhead, Beckenham and Barnes, Camberwell Old and Camberwell New, Queen's Road and Micham Road.

West Norwood and Nunhead

And then there is the London Necropolis, the world's largest cemetery (once), served by a dedicated railway line and station, coffins become informational quanta in a perpetual and rhythmic shunting of the dead, of the dead, of the dead.

shunting of the dead




...whatever it is they seem loaded with.

In one of my first jobs, a summer job on a building site, I spent an afternoon shifting a stack of planks from one point to another, one plank at a time, each plank carried by me and a workmate my own age. The planks were neither heavy nor cumbrous, but I suppose my workmate and I were. Were both plodding and awkward, I mean – hence our foreman’s indifference. Under those planks, in the warmth of the sun, under the nothing weight of that nothing task, we were tidied away in his mind. We could do no harm, require no guidance, cause him no worry. If we were successfully resisting, then so was he.

nothing weight




...did not think it appropriate to invite.

No labyrinth walk is complete without its monster.

Kelley – doubtless away with his dogs somewhere – is no monster, strictly speaking, but he stands in for us today as our Anubis-Minotaur, displaced by the absence of a properly navigable underworld in Norbiton to mourn and bellow (not literally) around the streets, harrow this upper Hell, set challenges, pitfalls, obstacles, locks, snares, decoys for the sould of Hunter Sidney, for us, for himself quite possibly.

mourn and bellow

To repeat, there is nothing monstrous about Kelley. He is more a black box of intent, a bit of a mystery, a necessary mental smutch on our smooth pale day. What did he ever know, or intuit, about Hunter Sidney and his wife? Do the recent dead need to appease the intricate souls of the living if they are to make progress away from the world? Or is it the inverse?