The days are hot and evenings bring a warm breeze. September is turning out much warmer than the unusually inconsistent August that preceded it. It is warm in England too, where Mr.Stevens, narrator of The Remains of the day, slowly makes his way through England, enjoying the countryside and dwelling on his memories. I find myself quite taken up by Ishiguro: after A Pale View of Hills, which was both beautiful and sad, I’m now immersed in The Remains of the Day. I’ve seen the movie, and this adds a dimension of reality to the narrative. Mr.Stevens always brings up that image of the perfect Anthony Hopkins; Miss Kenton’s sharp sentences emerge from none other than Emma Thompson; and Darlington Hall can only be that magnificent mansion in the movie. I’ll watch it again, once I’m done with the book.
We were at the library yesterday, to return two movies I’d picked up last weekend: David Lynch’s Lost Highway (a typical Lynch – weird yet captivating), and Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (the best of this director I’ve seen so far; epic in scale, yet intensely personal and touching). Walking back from the library, we stopped at Bismarckplatz to listen to some guitarists play outside Kaufhof. A small crowd had gathered, and there was a kid that kept going back to the open guitar box filled with coins, only to be pulled back by one of its parents. Night was slowly setting in, and a few lights had come on. A tram rolled into the square; people got down. We must spend the remaining summer evenings outdoors, I told my wife.
At work, I have the room all for myself. U has left for another team, and X is in the adjacent room this month. Last week we went out for dinner to celebrate – that is how U referred to it – the end of our association as a team. She decided on a restaurant in Schwetzingen, making sure they served vegetarian dishes as well. It was a warm evening, and the walk from the parking lot to the restaurant, through the quiet street next to the schloss, made me feel I was on a vacation: far away from home in a new place altogether. The restaurant was crowded outside, but U knew a quiet corner tucked behind; we found ourselves sitting next to a small pathway where people crossed occasionally – couples out on a stroll, young girls chirping merrily, an old lady with her dog…. The food was agreeable, and the relaxed atmosphere and conversation made it a memorable evening. U surprised us at the beginning with gifts for X and me – how typical of her to have thought of that, and how typical of us not to have! We spoke a bit about work, about her new team and how she found it so far. The conversation then drifted towards vacations we’d had – U spoke of her US tour back in 97, where on one occasion, when they were camping in a bear-inhabited region, they were woken up at night at the cries of excited tour members who had come out of their tents with their cameras to shoot the bear that had picked up one of their bear-proof-food-boxes. X spoke of his childhood in China, and patiently answered my questions on certain aspects of China I had gathered from my recent reading of Vikram Seth’s From Heaven Lake. Towards the end, when I mentioned that I had forgotten my camera so there could be no photo this evening, all of us agreed that we should use that as an excuse to meet again, just like this. On the walk back to the car park we stopped occasionally at shop windows displaying paintings or works of antique.
The room is empty now, and although it means less of discussions and interruptions, it sometimes feels like everyone is on vacation. Not the best of thoughts when there’s lots of work to do.
It is rather warm these days, as I’d mentioned earlier, and the heat this summer has led to an interesting pastime. Across the road, in the apartment where the young Russian couple live, the lady – she’s got pink cheeks, so I’ll call her Pinky – can be seen these days moving around in her brassiere. It reminds me of the post Alpha had written a long time ago about Nudie, a lady in the neighbouring apartment who stripped herself nude each evening and went about her normal household chores. (And on such evenings Pi – Alpha’s hubby – and a few other friends got together to enjoy the show, while Alpha went around distributing popcorn). But Pinky is no Nudie; she is far more conservative, which keeps things interesting. I’ve gotten used to it over summer, but my heart skipped a few beats the first time I spotted her in that state of undress. I must have stood transfixed for a while, for my wife warned that I’ll “get caught” doing what I was doing. Get caught for looking out of one’s own window? I asked her. Later she got curious as well, and wondered where Pinky bought such good quality bras from. Quality aside, she has a mixed taste for colour: I’ve spotted pink, burgundy and orange, apart from plain white.
Everyone these days seems to be talking about Rushdie and his new book (he’s all over literary blogs; he was on BBC last week; and the latest New Yorker features Updike’s review of Shalimar the Clown), but the new release I’m more excited about is Vikram Seth’s Two Lives. If the library doesn’t intend to acquire a copy, I’ll order one myself. But first, I must allow Mr.Stevens to finish what he has so elegantly begun.