Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Parks in Podgorica, Montenegro

 The third of my posts on Montenegro. You can read the first one here, the second one here. This is from my last visit there, over a year ago now.

Lake Shkoder in early morning, crossing the border from Albania into Montenegro


I’m sitting in Petrovica park in Podgorica, a warm and sunny day in late autumn. The capital of Montenegro is not architecturally riveting but it does have plenty of parks.

I’m reading a book by Andrej Nikolaidis, a Montenegrin writer, and I’m completely absorbed by it. There is no-one else in this part of the park, no-one else even walking past. I make notes as I read, as I’ve been asked to write something about this author and his novels. Every so often I look up, as I pause to think. I’m so absorbed in what I’m thinking that I only notice a man walking along the path when he’s almost standing in front of me. He is wearing a light brown uniform, he stops and says dober dan. Dober dan I reply. B
ut his next words, in Montenegrin, are beyond me so I admit, in English, that I don’t speak his language. Ah, he says, tourist? Yes. English? Yes. Dobra? I ask. OK? He assures me yes, he is OK. And again, I’m OK. He seems a little reluctant to leave but since as he says, all is OK, he nods and walks away, in the direction he came. I return to my book.

View of Podgorica from hilltop park


Earlier that day I’d done a circular in another park on a hill beyond the ancient small church of St. George (Sveti Djordje, about nine hundred years old, as I discover later).


Lovely old Sveti Djordje church with olive tree in morning sunshine
 

Then I’d headed into the central area, with pedestrian streets, and lots of cafes and restaurants, to have breakfast. 

 

Breakfast at the Loft cafe

 
I had plenty of time before heading back to the bus station, picking up my case from the left luggage, and going to the airport. So I explored this other park, which has an art gallery at the centre. I’d sat for a while at one of the entrances, with steps up to a sweeping path. There were no other people in this part of the park until two young women come along and pose on the steps, taking photos of each other.

I visited the art gallery, but did not stay long. The current exhibition was a series of distorted perceptions, where the artist gave trees, and sometimes humans, bunches of sprouting protruding limbs all equipped with eyes which leered and sucked at the objects of their vision. Women had enormous breasts and lips. Men looked ravaged and deformed.


But outside, the sun shines and the trees display yellow transparent leaves and the scene is peaceful. I will soon be boarding a plane and heading back to the grey skies of UK and I want to enjoy these last few hours of warmth and sunshine, so I head back outside, find a bench near the entrance with the steps and sit there. Which is where the man in uniform found me. I thought he was perhaps a park warden of some kind.

Just a few minutes later, he comes back. As he walks up the path he is speaking on his phone, and stops in front of me again. You have ID? he asks. Yes I say. He holds out his hand, he wants to see it. I take out my p
assport, give it to him. He opens it, flips through the pages, then pulls out a notebook, and writes in it. I presume he is noting my name and passport number. But why, I ask him as he hands it back. I’m just sitting in the park, why do you need to see my ID? He gestures to the building just below the hill, which my bench just happens to overlook. American Embassy he says, I work there.

It all makes sense now. My scribbling, and gazing out in the direction of the Embassy has clearly aroused suspicion. Though I had no idea it was the US Embassy I was looking at. The man nods, and walks off. I close my book, and decide it’s time to leave the park. I take lots of photographs but I hadn’t taken any while I was sitting there. Fortunately. That might have been really incriminating.


Milenium Most (Bridge), over the Morača river, Podgorica


Saturday, 1 August 2020

Northumbrian Coastline




From Alnmouth (on England's north east coast) train station there’s a mile long walk into town, it drizzles rain, the backpacks are heavy. Through the one main street – a shop, a couple of hotels and restaurants, and out to the end, overlooking the sea. Lunch break, then on along the coast path, onto the beach. And a little ways along the beach we pitch the tent at the end of sand where a bank rises steeply behind us – it’s covered in thick bracken. There’s a low rainbow on the horizon



then it stops raining and the sun comes out. And for an evening walk, blissfully unencumbered, we follow a path up on the high ground and walk that way back to the town. The last part, along the side of a golf course, then up steep steps to a cobbled street and on to the main street.

I have a longing for fish and chips. We sit outside the restaurant, in evening sun, share an enormous portion of fish and chips, C has a pint of beer, I have a glass of wine. When did I last eat out? Apart from picnics, I think it was February.


Walk back along the shore. There is still a stub of rainbow visible on the horizon.



What if the tide comes in and floods the tent? I say. There are two high tide marks, lines of squiggling seaweed, dried-out calligraphy, the barest black of sea-messaging. They form  meandering lines, marking where the sea has flattened the sand smooth. Beyond them, small rocks, and two shelves of sandstone pavements, which look man-made in their precision, a shelf that slopes downward to the sea, marked out into crisscross squares as if cut with regular and careful strokes.



C points to the straggly seaweed lines two or three metres from the tent.
It won’t come any further up than that.


The sea is far away from us now, revealing clusters of small rocks, some draped with yellowish seaweed, fat and rubbery with their thick pods plump peas bursting with life. The fronds hang from rock crevices and when the sea returns they will float upwards carried by the salt swing of the tide.



I’m struck by the movement, the constancy of it, the regularity and it feels as if this has to be the pulse of life itself, in this movement. Like breathing. Like sitting on a swing, back and forward, back and higher. It feels like homecoming too – living so close to the sea, hearing it all the time.



Seabirds call and whistle, the curlews rising chant, the low calls of night birds.
The whispering of the sea came closer in the night. I checked through the tent screen, the whispers and hiss of the small waves sounded so close, but the sea kept its distance, rearranging the black seaweed patterns at the edge of its reach, its fingers smoothing out the sand, crinkling its lacy black border.
*

A small metal twig-holder (twigs, small sticks, dried seaweed) makes an excellent fire container. A little pot filled with water placed on two tent pegs across the top. It soon boils, add coffee, stir, then leave it for a few moments to settle before pouring into cup. Drinking this coffee with a slight flavour of woodsmoke I think as so many have before me I’m sure, how satisfying it is, drinking this coffee from a makeshift fire.



How close it brings you to something elemental in your being, how essentially creative it feels. And to be creative in this widest sense of the word, doing and making, fulfils something deep in the human experience. And being outside, and close to the sea and the sound it makes, and the seabirds and the sounds they make, and the sunlight and the sky with its thin and delicate patterning of clouds.





*
All day the horizon line’s been etched dark and clear against the pale blue sky. Drawn by a draughtsman straight and pure and dark blue.




The day’s coastal walk from Alnmouth to Craster blurs into hot sunshine alternating with a cool sea breeze. The sea rustles or makes louder whispers, but never loud brass thumping bass. Coves with flowers – harebell, meadowsweet and C tells me other names I instantly forget.





Close to Craster, a ribbed cliff of rock that seabirds clearly love. The two figures on the end of the cliff are just about to jump into the sea.



The picturesque harbour of the village of Craster, where we spend ten minutes, before taking the bus (the only bus, which by good luck we arrive in time to catch) back to Alnmouth.



Back at the camp, I sit for a while on the shelf of rock and the sea air tugs, tangles with my throat and windpipe, emptying words like pitchers of salt and seaweed, shells clattering, and pours over the limestone pavements, placed in ranks like determined, over-determined masons corrugating and embellishing, laying out steps leading out of the sea.

Rivulets from small ponds (left behind by the tide) run round the edge, form channels, hurry back down the sand slope, where the sea shifts, long-legged, to the horizon.

I wade into the sea, waves cover my toes and ankles. I remember then, the last time I waded into water and swam in the sea. October 29 2019. Almost 9 months ago. But it doesn’t matter, soles on the damp sand – because every beach is precious I know this now.

The seabirds calling last night – curlews I know, and oyster-catchers and the rest whose names I don’t know. Before sundown on the walk through the fields and along the edge of the golfcourse, the swallows were diving and skimming low over the long grasses with heavy seed heads leaning over, attracting insects which attract the swallows. Such companions these birds.

The fleece clouds cover half the sky and the long straight cloudbars strung like washing lines, just a hint of pale pink in the distance.



Seagulls, lobster pots and a low growl, the deep breaths that the sea takes, after it has smoothed the sand, so flat and clean, with black seaweed decorations. A small black dog comes up to me. Its owner-stroller says hallo. The distant clouds spread with a muted, dusky dark-blue glow.



Friday, 10 July 2020

Not La Grande Jatte

Bass Rock just visible in the Firth of Forth, Scotland's east coast

Two bike rides in the recent hot weather, do you remember those two days? The first, it began warm with a thin skin of cloud and later it got hot, it got like France or Greece. With the bikes in the back of my friends’ van we drove to Walkerburn, then cycled all the way to Peebles on the cycle path, beside the river, and beyond the bridge at Peebles, we cycled on and stopped for lunch, beside the river, always the river, and the sunshine, all clouds had left now and there were trees on both sides of the river and J & R sat on a bench and I sat on the grass, partly in the shade. 



There was quite a large group of people near us, they had their own camping chairs, it seemed they had their own table even, there were several adults and a few children, it’s like a Seurat painting says R yes I say, la Grande Jatte, with the colours of people's clothes, the green of the grass and river banks, the darker green of sycamore and pine, the blue of sky, the black and brown shades of two passing dogs, eager to rummage in our picnic, while the owner calls to them and apologises. Our picnic is bananas and dates, crisps and cashew nuts.

I take a photo to compare to Seurat’s painting as the hot sunshine has turned everything dream-like so we could easily have turned into La Grande Jatte, but somehow I missed out the people with their picnic table so you only see the grass and the buttercups and the nearby pedestrian bridge and you can’t see the river. So it looks nothing at all like La Grande Jatte.



[
Georges Seurat La Grande jatte

On the cycle path on the way back we see two stoats running out of the grass and onto to the path, one after the other, we speak to two black ponies and give them two apples, one each.

And all the while it feels so hot we could be in Corfu we could be in the south of France, and the countryside has never looked so lovely.


The next day, also hot and sunny, two in a row! we drive to Belhaven on the east coast, then get the bikes out and cycle along a path that is part grass and part sand and then turns completely into sand as we cycle on the beach, though the tide is out so far out that the sea is invisible except for a distant blue blur. 



Lunch break under the pines and after that the fun really begins. The path is narrow, well that’s one thing, and there is long grass on either side so it’s like being in a tunnel, you can’t dodge out of it. It also goes up and down up and down and sometimes there are tree roots straying across the path to bump you up and down just a little more. At the bottom and sometimes at the top of each dip and rise the path twists so you have to turn quickly as well as change gear, as well as try not to waggle the front wheel around in desperate different directions in attempts to stay on the path rather than founder, stop and fall off in the long grass. It is marvellous. I do well until near the end, when I come  off the path twice, the second time slipping down a grassy bank (yet manage not to fall off the bike).


The next part was a straight and mostly level path, with high grasses on each side, that whipped at your hands and arms and legs then went on through some woods which were blessedly shady, and we go past a high fence behind which some emus and llamas graze and saunter casually.



We don’t see the sea till we’re back at Belhaven, but it’s still distant. We spend a short time by the beach, but not long, there’s a chilly sea breeze which hasn’t put off some people but it does us as we have experienced the searing heat of the inland cycle route (obstacle course) which reminded us (in temperature terms) of the lovely path from Agios Stefanos in Corfu so we were not going to enjoy a return to the usual Scottish beach experience (torn between exposing one’s limbs to the rare event of direct sunlight and wrapping oneself in a blanket to keep warm, because of the chilly wind). But just before we left I made another attempt at capturing a Seurat likeness of La Grande Jatte.




Then to Dunbar for some ice cream. Via a dead end (is this the right road? asks J. Yes say I, no says R.) The end of the road is full of vans belonging to builders who must be carrying out repairs, and it is difficult to turn around. (I told you it wasn’t the right road says R.) It’s worth the wait in the queue outside the ice cream shop.




We get a closeup view of the sea. And an impressive Georgian building (partly Adam design). 


Just as impressive gardens which I spied through an archway. J & I went through the archway and spoke to the lady who lives there who tells us she created these gardens, no one else in the tenement was very interested and she has done it all – vegetable patches, flowers, a box hedge (that was there before).


 After chatting to her for a while we go back to the main street where R was sitting on a bench waiting for us, complaining about the time we took. 

Drive back home was through the village of Stenton, with manicured topiary, an old well and an old churchyard.





It is eerily quiet and deserted. Back home through Gifford, Humbie and Soutra Aisle, with no arguments about which road to take. Glorious adventures, after not having been far away from home and garden for months – and to see the sea!


Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Budva, Montenegro

Modern street art in Podgorica, Montenegro

As I mentioned in the last blog post I recently read a marvellous novel by a Montenegrin writer. The novel’s title is Catherine the Great and the Small, written
by Olja Knežević, translated by Paula Gordon and Ellen Elias-Bursać and published by Istros Books, who have brought us so many brilliant writers in translation from south-east Europe, such as Daša Drndić, Alma Lazarevska, Faruk Šehić  etc

Catherine the Great and the Small is divided into two parts, both narrated by Katarina (often known as Kaća) in her inimitable voice. In the first part she is a teenager, still at school, growing up in the city of Podgorica (then known at Titograd) the capital of Montenegro. After leaving school she goes on to study economics at the university of Belgrade. There are two other important characters in these turbulent years, a boyfriend Staniša and her closest girlfriend, Milica. But this is no ordinary tale neither of young love and loyal friendship nor of academic success (though these are part of the story). In the 1980s the country then known as Yugoslavia is under great pressure. The leading politicians are sowing deep fractures with nationalistic speeches, stirring antipathies among its different nationalities, ethnicities and religions.

You can read the rest of my review online at Scottish Review.

It was after reading this inspiring book that I had the idea to post something about Montenegro. In the last post I quoted travellers to Montenegro in 1910 (Edith Durham) and 1936 (Harry Hodgkinson). My own first visit was almost 100 years after Edith Durham's.



Budva bay, Montenegro


I first visited Montenegro twenty years ago, in 2000, when I was living in Tirana, Albania. A group of us from work decided on a week-end by the sea. Later in the summer we would go south to the coast of the Ionian Sea (the beach at Dhermis  was almost deserted and totally undiscovered by foreign tourists in those days) but this time we drove north, crossing the border from Albania into Montenegro by Lake Shkodra. Some of our procurement personnel were ex-military and had heard that the border had just been reopened.

This was not long after the war in Kosova and borders were still regulated by KFOR, the international peacekeeping force. KFOR trucks and military personnel were a common sight in the north of Albania and had a particularly strong presence around all the border crossings. After the break-up of Yugoslavia, all that was left was Montenegro and Serbia (sometimes known as rump Yugoslavia). These two states had not yet separated into individual countries (that would happen 3 years later). And Kosova, (majority ethnic Albanian) at that time was still a part of Serbia so that coming from Albania into what was still Serbia-and-Montenegro just after the Kosova war, was a tense process.

It was a lengthy procedure, as all of our passports, an international mix of Albanian, British, Australian and American, were minutely examined. But once we were through, we watched the scenery become more and more dramatic.  We were going to stay at Budva, a coastal town and holiday resort in the summer. The road from the border went up into the mountains and I remember that first glimpse of the coast, seen from high up on the mountain road.

 
Looking down on the Montenegrin coast 

The old town of Budva was entrancing. Its narrow stone streets and tall buildings were draped with colourful flowers. Coming from the dust and rubble of Tirana which was in a frenzy of demolition and rebuilding and which then had few trees and green spaces, (it has many more now) Budva was peaceful, beautiful and luxurious.





And best of all, there was the sea to swim in, to cool off from the hot summer sun. (I’m getting severely nostalgic now, in this still-restricted Covid summer, thinking of hot sun and that intensely blue Adriatic Sea.)

Budva bay framed by mountains   

(All of these photographs were taken in the days before digital cameras. But as you can see from the above photo I suffered then, as I still do now, from a disability known as HAD (horizontal adjustment deficiency) resulting in tilted horizons in photographs and squint pictures on my walls. Should you suffer from the same inability to see straight dear reader, fear not, I just made this up.)

Friday, 12 June 2020

Montenegrin Interlude

From Harry Hodgkinson's The Adriatic Sea


I had the idea to have a Montenegrin interlude, after reading the 

marvellous novel Catherine the Great and the Small by 
Montenegrin writer Olja Knežević (the link takes you to my review ) and looking for images to go with the review reminded me of the time I spent there over a year ago, and then of the first time I visited that country, and then of things written about it by others.
 

And since I'm not travelling these days this is surely the ideal time to look back at past travels and it seems I haven't yet written anything on this blog about Montenegro.

I was unable to locate some of the writings I have in French by another author (and may one of these days translate, supposing I ever find them) but I did find others. The first is an as yet unpublished essay by Harry Hodgkinson (which includes a stanza from Tennyson on Montenegro (Tsernagora) and was written in the mid 1990s).  The second is a brief commentary on Edith Durham’s letters written from her base in Montenegro when she was helping Balkan refugees in 1911.

So the first part of this will be by way of background, followed (later, hopefully) by some of my own comments and travel experiences and even a brief look at contemporary literature by Montenegrin writers.


Budva, Montenegro. Photo credit: Harry Hodgkinson


In his essay My Friend Edith Durham Harry Hodgkinson relates how Edith’s first journey to the Balkans brought her to Montenegro.

In 1900, at the age of 37, Edith made her first sally into those Balkans which were to become the bane and the glory of her existence.
She chose to go to Montenegro, which then had the great advantages of being remote but accessible, exotic but welcoming, Homerically wild in form but in substance amenable to the golden kronen of the tourist. In those days the solid bourgeois of Mitteleuropa, loyal subjects of Franz Josef and the Kaiser, in linen suit and Leghorn straw hat, was accompanied by his bosomy spouse, soberly resplendent in silks and sunshade.  They spent their vacations cruising by Lloyd liner down the Dalmatian coast from Trieste, marvelling at the Roman ruins and Venetian campaniles en route, arguing at Zara over whether Vlahov's maraschino was better than Luxardo's, and coming to a halt amid the incomparable grandeurs of the Gulf of Kotor.

The more conscientious carried with them the guidebook issued under the auspices of the Union for the Encouragement of Local Economic Initiatives of Royal Dalmatia. This was a volume of magisterial proportions – two and a half pounds in weight and 622 closely-printed pages. In my early Balkan forays, Edith Durham presented me with her copy of this formidable Reiseführer, and although it was hardly at home in the pocket of a rucksack, it still has no peer for its indefatigable scholarship. …...

This definitive testament of Austrian thoroughness includes an exhaustive chapter covering the optional but popular Excursion to Montenegro. The more enterprising of the voyagers undertook the exhilarating ascent of the hairpin serpentines of the road the Hapsburgs had built to facilitate the eventual invasion of their neighbour, beyond the dazzling backward vistas of blue sea and pink-roofed towns, to the bleak stony grandeurs of the Black Mountain.

Montenegro had a pervasive fascination for Europeans reared, as all the rulers and scholars were, on parallels with ancient history. While the Greeks were seen with the eye of faith as corresponding with the urban Athenian, the Montenegrin mountaineer was presented as the reincarnation of the heroic barbarism of Homer's warriors. …… And Lord Tennyson hailed them in a furious sonnet of acknowledgement, marred only by a characteristically detumescent final line:
   
    O smallest of peoples! Rough rock throne
    Of freedom! Warriors beating back the swarm
    Of Turkish Islam for five hundred years,
    Great Tsernagora! Never since thine own
    Black ridges drew the cloud and brake the storm
    Has breathed a race of mightier mountaineers.

The reality was rather less simple and more prosaic. Montenegro enjoyed a semblance of sovereign independence because the Turks had found that a small army sent into those hungry hills was massacred, and a large one starved. But the Ottomans claimed sovereignty, and Montenegro does appear to have paid tribute form time to time. Face was saved on both sides. The Montenegrins chose a Bishop, not a secular Prince, to rule them; and the Turks interpreted the Montenegrins, not as a nation in the modern sense, but as a millet, a religious grouping owing political allegiance to Constantinople, not Cetinje.


(I recommend Harry Hodgkinson’s The Adriatic Sea (published in 1955). He combines travel, history and geography with humour and erudition, and written in his engaging style.)


Cover of Marcus Tanner's excellent biography of Edith Durham


I was recently editing and proofreading letters of Edith Durham, (1863 – 1944) sent from Montenegro in 1911 to members of the British Foreign Office. Edith, an accomplished artist, did not set out to be either a writer or an aid worker but when she was touring the Balkans, fighting broke out (which would turn into the Balkan Wars 1912/13) and she responded to the plight of refugees there. This began her life-long interest in the Balkan peoples, and particularly in Albania, a country oppressed for centuries by the Ottoman Turks, and which now strongly wanted independence. 

Her letters show her to be a remarkable woman, who is not afraid to speak her mind. I’m struck by her courage and tireless work (singlehandedly it seems, and unpaid) to help Albanian refugees (mostly women and children) who had fled Turkish troops. There had been regular uprisings throughout the centuries, which were suppressed.  But this time (1911) marked a weakening in Ottoman power, and the Turks agreed to terms (after inflicting horrible things on the population, burning homes and crops, pillaging, raping etc.) Many Albanians had fled across the border to neighbouring Montenegro. It was agreed that if they returned, money would be given to them, to rebuild their homes, and to buy corn to eat. But the Great Powers of the time (Great Britain, France and Austria-Hungary) refused to guarantee the Turkish promises, which infuriated Edith, as she knew how unlikely the Turks were to keep their promises. She wrote: ‘A terrible lot of quite unnecessary suffering was caused by hustling forcibly all these thousands of poor wretches back over the frontier in four days, before any preparations were made for them.
It was very hot, water was scarce, there was no wood to replace the roofs on their houses and the rainy season was about to begin. None of the promised money had been given out and no steps taken to provide shelter and she wrote that it was unbearable to think ‘of those miserable people’ homeless in the streets in the ‘torrents of rain.’

A practical woman, she set to work, buying and distributing flannel for people to make clothes. Then to compound the miseries and difficulties, an outbreak of cholera meant that borders were closed, and the supplies necessary to provide shelters and rebuild homes, could not be shipped in. ‘There is now no way of escape from here’, she wrote. ‘The Montenegrin frontier is hermetically sealed’


Probably Edith's best known book is High Albania, about her travels in the early 1900s through the mountains of northern Albania. Her letters detailing her efforts on behalf of Albanian independence, and the various fights, battles and atrocities leading up to the Balkan Wars and WWII, will hopefully be published soon. She is remembered with fondness and gratitude in Albania, and has a street named after her in Tirana.

 

Monday, 18 May 2020

High Faces & Loose Rocks Part II




Of course I had to go back, I couldn’t let it rest, that almost-achieved walk along the outer rim of the forest, which had been disturbed by the large white landcruiser which appeared so suddenly and noiselessly and (to me) inexplicably. (see Part I)

And it’s another sunny day, the sky intensely blue, though the wind riffling through the valley is chill. So I go back through the quarry and up the track, and these woods now have an austere kind of beauty to them, these long slender red-brown trunks of the Scots pines and their dark green crowns, they have come to be companionable to me now.



And so serene and still and peaceful is the atmosphere that when I think about the white landcruiser I decide it was simply a coincidence, I was not being followed or checked out, its appearance had nothing to do with me. (Though I’m still not sure.)

I follow the track uphill (with rests) but this time I take a right hand turn and this branch track carries on through the trees, right to where the forest ends. There is no need to scrabble through the sharp and sticky pine branches, I come out on the hilltop and the plantation and there is a clear view over the hills, and no fence on one side which makes the high fence near the forest, a bit redundant.




I follow the narrow strip between wood and plantation downhill, round the edge of the trees, and when I come round the corner, above the quarry, the wind vanishes, it is unbelievably warm and peaceful in the windless sun, and I sit down in the grass and watch the crows sail up above the quarry edge and slip down again, as if they are riding fairground horses in a rhythmic carousel.



The trees on the edge of the forest are more widely spaced, some Scots pine, some larch and further on, several silver birches. Grass grows under them and between them as if they are part of some huge garden. As I’m following the path (small and delicate, not a human footpath, an animal track) I spot two deer ahead, coming towards me. I duck into the trees and bring out my camera and when I emerge again they are no longer moving closer, but standing still. I manage a photo of them before they turn around and run off.



The path comes out at the track leading up from the quarry. Down in the valley, the train goes over the bridge that crosses the river. 



The tops of the pines stir a little, hardly at all, as if the slightest breath is moving through them.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A View from London

Photo by Susan Curtis


Susan Curtis is a writer and translator from Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Montenegrin. She is also the founding editor of Istros Books, a publishing house which specialises in translated work from the Balkans and south-east Europe. I’ve complained so often about the lack of translated literature into English and then Susan creates Istros Books, what a godsend! You can find out why I’ve enjoyed these books from a sample couple of reviews I’ve written – of Alma Lazarevska’s Death in the Museum of Modern Art and Life Begins on Friday by Ioana Pârvulescu. For a full list of their titles you can visit the Istros website.
Susan has lived in various parts of Europe, including Slovenia, Croatia and Italy, and now lives in London, which is the setting for her poem.


Lockdown London
(with thanks to Blake)

As silent as Christmas Day,
the flag poles on Regent Street
rattling in their brackets,
the furling and unfurling of wings
as birds reclaim the skies
and the black asphalt laid bare,
revealing undulations of the land beneath;
the fields and hills and earth that once
meant home. Freed now of the static
of traffic that scatters our vision,
our horizon has been restored.
While the tiger in the zoo,
still silent in his symmetry,
surveys the fearful passersby,
caged by their own uncertainty
and the dread hammer of wild
time, unchained.