The Weasel Has Landed

londonsatellitelayers.jpg

Image nicked from: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 10 Jul. 2006. “Astronaut Photography of Earth – Display Record.” Heavily P’shopped by an weasel.

I love to fly over cities at night. Young American cities, with their planned layout and straight, symmetrical roads, look like giant, lit-up circuit boards or glowing machinery. I flew over Chicago once — beautiful! It perfectly outlines the black wedge of Lake Michigan in shining gridlines.


London looks entirely different. All the main roads are ancient — wandering threads of light that draw together periodically in circular roundabouts. You can’t see it in the photo (which is a daytime satellite picture), but it looks like nothing so much as glial cells. Not very poetic, maybe, but it really does look organic, like a tangle of nerves, with the little dark synapses of parks in between.

Because traffic into Heathrow is so heavy, we always have to take a lap or two around the city before it’s our turn to land. I love that. Last time, it was clear and we were low and I got that Eyeball of God feeling. I could see the cars and buildings and even the little men playing soccer in a field quite distinctly. I spotted the radio mast up at Crystal Palace, and it was like I could flick it over with a finger if I wanted.

Usually, on the final approach, we come roaring up the fat black ribbon of the Thames. It’s crossed by a dozen bridges, draped in lights. Oh, yes. Very cool. I think it’s the Bath Road the we parallel as the plane touches down. If I’m lucky, I’ll spot the Tudor McDonald’s at which I once personally ate a Big Mac. Tudor McDonald’s. No kidding. They do that shit to impress tourists.

 

You can’t really photograph it from a plane, and the night shots from space are distant and blurry. This painting comes closest I’ve seen to capturing a flight down the Thames. Ironically, it was painted in, like, 1908. Ummm…and has fairies in it (they say if you suck a fairy into a commercial turbine, you’ve got real problems). This reproduction is crappy enough to be almost pointless, but it’s the best I could find. The original is a huge water color called “Twilight Dreams” by my favorite British illustrator, Arthur Rackham. I was lucky enough to see this for real in an exhibition once.

 

It was foggy last night when I landed, so I didn’t see much but a soft, pulsing areas of glow. Funny, this is the only time I’ve known London really foggy. Of course, the famous pea soup London fogs were coal smoke, and this is just…well, fog. They canceled some flights yesterday, and today have shut the airport entirely to domestic flights. Merry Christmas, I guess.

But I was lucky. I landed okay. So I don’t care.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Dave in Texas
    Posted December 20, 2006 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I loved visiting London. 2003. We had a blast. More anecdotes than you can shake a stick at.

    My favorites. The Eye. The Tower. Stonehenge (not in London). The “Ripper” walk. The cabbie who brought my kids purse back to us.

    “Down by the station yeah”?

  2. Posted December 21, 2006 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Oh! Stonehenge! When I went there, I didn’t know that’s where we were going. We were just “out for a drive,” for all I knew. We topped a rise, and there it was. I was amazed at how close it is to the main road. Two, in fact — the road forks, and Stonehenge is right in the crotch of it. The Heel Stone is, like, six feet from the road. From the photos, you’d think it was out on a windswept plain somewhere. They’ve been collecting money for years to bury the road.

    Not far away is the Ridgeway, which still has a lot of the spookiness I think has worn off of Stonehenge. It’s an ancient (like, Stone Age) road. In fact, it’s been called the oldest road in the world. It’s preserved as a public footpath now, about 87 miles long. It starts at the Avebury stone circle and passes near Silbury Hill, several burial mounds and a White Horse. I’ve only done a few miles of it, as far as Wayland’s Smithy (a burial mound). I’d love to walk the whole thing some day.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] The Weasel has landed in London, and his blog offers an unusual commentary on the experience.  […]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

%d bloggers like this: