Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Waste Land

Falstaff tells us how to spend our 48 hours in TS Eliot's The Waste Land. The first of our Invisible Cities.

April is the worst month to travel to the Waste Land. Summer can be pretty slow too, unless your cousin is an arch-duke, but April is just deathly boring. The routes are dull with spring rain, and there’s really nothing to do but sit around watching your shadow in the morning and your shadow in the evening – which really isn’t any fun at all. If you are planning to visit, Winter is definitely the time to go.

Friday 6 pm
The best way to get to the Waste Land is by ship from Ireland, though if you’re the kind of person who fears death by water you may want to catch a flight instead. The boat ride is fun, though. Regular ferry services are available from Stetson Travels. It’s about a two and a half hour trip, so you can lie back and listen to Wagner on the PA system, drink Belladonna on the rocks at the ship bar or play Hangman with your co-passengers in the Phoenician lounge. Beware of card games, however – gamblers in the Waste Land are known to carry a wicked pack of cards.

Friday 8:30 pm
You’ve arrived! Be prepared for a gala welcome. Tourists are regularly greeted by young girls carrying hyacinths (they call them the hyacinth girls), and don’t be afraid if someone offers you a handful of dust. You don’t want to spend much time loitering about near the harbour though, instead you want to go up the hill and down King William Street, to where Saint Mary Woolnoth keeps the hours. Getting there before the dead sound of the final stroke of nine is actually pretty important, because the crowd on the bridge is just crazy afterwards. You wouldn’t think there would be so many, but there are.

Friday 9:30 pm
For your first evening in the Waste Land, you don’t want to try anything too hectic. Instead, take a walk by the colonnade and into the Hofgarten, grabbing a cup of coffee at one of the local cafes or just sitting around talking for an hour. Alternatively, you could just wander around the streets taking in the sights. You won’t be disappointed. Believe me, this city is Unreal!

Saturday 10 am
Saturday morning in the Waste Land. The perfect time to unwind and rest those aching bones. After a lazy breakfast at the Cannon Street Hotel, head over to the Phlebas spa, where you can forget all about profit and loss with a relaxing dip in the Jacuzzi. First timers may be a little embarrassed to be wandering about among strangers with very little on, but don’t worry – people from all stages of age and youth, Gentile or Jew, come here, and chances are, most of them are even less tall and handsome than you.

Saturday 2 pm
After a long am of soaking in the minerals, you’re now ready for a late lunch at Cleopatra’s Barge. Be prepared to be amazed by the opulent d├ęcor of this finest of the Waste Land’s restaurants, complete with chairs like burnished thrones, glistening candelabras, satin cases, vials of ivory and coloured glass, strange synthetic perfumes and Golden cupidons. But don’t let the gawdy ambience put you off – behind that super-shiny exterior is a menu that holds up the highest standards of fruit and wine. Be sure to book your table well in advance though – the place gets crowded really fast (in case you have trouble getting a reservation, just ask for Albert) and do keep in mind that they tend to close fairly early, so you don’t want to get there too late and have to hurry through your meal because it’s time.

Saturday 4 pm
What to do now? You can start by rushing out on the street with your hair down, or, if it’s raining, catch a closed car. A game of chess is often a good idea, or, if you’re more the outdoor-sy kind, you could go down to the local cemetery, check out the King’s brother’s grave, and the King’s father’s grave before that. Beware of the dogs in the graveyard though, they’re really friendly, but you never know where they’ve been digging.

Saturday 6 pm
The violet hour. The meal ended, the time is now propitious to get a little action. It’s time to sample the exciting night life of the Waste Land. So wash your feet in soda water, get on your dancing shoes and leave your inhibitions behind. As everyone knows, the Waste Land is a great place to hook up on Saturday night. If you’re so inclined, the place to start is along the Strand and up Queen Victoria Street, possibly stopping in a public bar on lower Thames street, or, if you really want to push your look, going all the way down to the Magnus Martyr. Sooner or later you’re bound to run into a group of incredibly hot women putting on a revue. And you know what they say about lovely women stooping to Follies. The fact is there are some really lonely women in the Waste Land. You can see them through the windows, pacing about their rooms alone, smoothing their hair with an automatic hand, putting records on the gramophone. The men, by contrast, aren’t much to write home about, they’re mostly small house agent’s clerks and have a depressing tendency to wear silk hats. All the more reason to experiment with your sexuality if you’re a woman. And don’t be embarrassed – believe me, this city has seen it all before.

If you’re already in a relationship, or aren’t looking for that kind of thing, you could always check out the Fishmen Lounge, the most happening nightclub in downtown Waste Land. Groove to the sounds of the Isles of Dogs singing their hit number ‘Weialala leia’, or just blend in with the clatter and chatter from within. Watch out for their cocktails, though. They’re potent stuff. Mixing Memory and Desire is always a bad idea, and a couple of Highburys and you’re liable to end up supine on the floor with your knees raised in the air.

Saturday 10 pm
Finally, don’t forget to catch the late, late show at the Tiresias, the movie hall on Elizabeth and Leicester. Tiresias is one of the oldest movie halls in the world, and specializes in screening movies where you’ve seen it all before (the current feature, for instance, is that little known four hour Kurosawa masterpiece Hieronymo’s Mad Againe). It’s an experience not to be missed, though you’re likely to hear, from time to time, Sweeney and Mrs. Porter, making it on the springs at the back. Also, be careful going down the unlit stairs afterward, especially if you’ve had a lot to drink.

Sunday 9 am
After that decadent Saturday evening, all that shouting and crying, all that torchlight red on sweaty faces, it’s time to get a little sun and fresh air. Your best bet this morning is to take the Le Prince d’Aquitane tour which takes you up to the glorious Thunder Park. (more adventurous visitors can make a slight detour to the nearby Valley of Dying Stars, a hollow valley, broken jaw of their lost kingdoms). Thunder Park is a marvelous place (though be sure to carry your own water). The road winding above among mountains, mudcracked houses everywhere and the sound of the hermit-thrush singing through the pines. If they’re two of you, it’s probably worth while hiring one of the park guides to walk beside you, though the place can be fun even if you’re by yourself. Plus, if you’re interested, you could always get in a spot of fishing.

Sunday 12 noon
It’s getting close to time to leave now, but what better way to end your trip to the Waste Land than with a boating trip down Greenwich Reach? Catch one of the red sailed barges from Margate Sands and drift along the strand with the turning tide, watching the brisk swell ripple with the southwest wind. If you’re lucky, and the sea is calm, your boatman will let you steer the boat for a while, and you can feel how gaily the boat responds to you, your hand suddenly expert with sail and oar. Follow that up with lunch at the Metropole, and you’ll be ready to bid adieu to the perfect weekend vacation.


Space Bar said...

brilliant! i kind of missed a runny-nosed sosotris, though. :-)

~River~ said...

Very nice. Here's my favourite take on The Waste Land--Wendy Cope's limericks.


In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyantes distress me,
Commuters depress me--
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.


She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many questions,
I make few suggestions--
Bad as Albert and Lil--what a pair!


The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep--
A typist is laid,
A record is played--
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.


A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business--the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he'd met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.


No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you'll make sense of the notes.

n said...

oooh, i loved it. you managed to work a lot of stuff in :)

Emma said...

This was just a great read... absolutely brilliant