I had meant to go back to the beginnings of my recent experiences of water, in Greece, last year, to get away from this late January moment in London where water is not quite liquid, not quite frozen; a sticky surface to the park and lumpily solid underneath, the steady drip through the ceiling from a leak which might have its origin beneath the solar panels, the damp darkness.
What I want to write about is, for example, the sanctuary of Demeter at Dion between Mount Olympus and the the sea, where I sat and watched a white goose, saw its neck and beak and bright eye close up and perfect beneath the transparent water. The sanctuary is a small, still lake formed by springs. Demeter is the goddess of fertility and corn; every year she falls into a terrible depression while her daughter Persephone is in Hades, spring marks her return to this world. And the story of the wonderfully clear water is that the wild women, drunken, ecstatic followers of Dionysus who tore Orpheus to pieces because he would not worship Dionysus, washed the blood from their hands in a river that flows from Olympus whereupon the river for shame disappeared into the earth but surfaced purified miles further down in those very springs, just as the dirty waters of the New River are cleansed at Thames Water’ filter beds.
But I keep remembering watery highlights from the past and having banal thoughts about the nature of water, like, it can be opaque! It can be transparent! It reflects, and when it does so it turns things upside down! It is so solid that a body falling onto it can be broken; clever swimmers are said to ‘enter’ the water, the outstretched arms of the diver find an opening in its hard surface. She gets points for not making a splash.
So anyway I’ve hunted and found some photos.
This bad photo was taken at night nearly twenty years ago. It illustrates a conflict that has been going on for at least thirty years between Thames Water and the powerful forces it struggles to direct and contain. the next photo was taken a few days ago:
How true. They’ll be back. Again and again and again. I asked one of the workers what they were doing and why they kept on doing it. He was cheerful but defensive. He seemed to think that this was what had to happen for the taps to keep working in our houses. It was normal. Then he said they were putting in inspection chambers. The idea of chambers reminded me of caves in limestone country where stalactites and stalagmites form. Then he smiled and said, ‘keeps us in work!’
This was about ten years ago. Unlike the nasty, filthy, muddy puddles strewn with litter, if you get a good burst pipe making a spring of drinking quality and it’s been raining to clean the road somewhat you get a tranquil water feature, with a patch of cloud and a hint of blue reflected. And right outside my house! I should be grateful for the entertainment. In contrast, another seismic show from about fifteen years ago:
Here you see the force of water causing interesting rectangular splitting, possibly as a result of previous repairs.
A few minutes later the whole surface of the road is beginning to break up.
Because this city is actually quite dry we sometimes experience the novelty of rain. Here are some photos from a day in April 2012 when a spring drought broke:
Each big rain drop on the oily road an event!
the dark Thames pitted
and half an hour later, the rain had stopped, a new play of light in the sky, the world turned upside down:
Lovely to read this. Please show again the beautiful picture you took of the swan in the pool
we’re coming to that…..