I've been reading a book about gardens, a collection of essays, Of Gardens, by Paula Deitz. Last night I came to one called 'Autumn in Japan,' about visiting a temple in Kyoto where 'entering the moss garden, there comes from outside the rhythmic sound of sweeping. Inside the garden, this sound pervades the autumnal air. Its visual accompaniments include the implements used to sweep the leaves--rustic brooms and woven winnowers that scoop up the piles--and the sweepers themselves dressed in faded indigo stripes and plaids.' This reminded me of one of my favourite Paris sounds, as I know I've written before: the sound of sweepers sweeping up leaves in the fall--but also cleaning gutters year-round--with their brooms, now green plastic, but once rustic too. Every time I pass one of these sweepers in the street I want to stop and say thank you, I love listening to you work, thank you for not being machines.
Of course, they might rather be driving a great noisy truck, instead of catering to my sensuous, and leisurely, pleasures. Probably 'brooming' the streets is a pretty lowly task in the life of a city like Paris. Most of them are first--or second?--generation immigrants. Which brings me to another book I've just read, Samuel Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, about a population of Caribbean immigrants settling in London after WW2. It begins with a man called Moses, going to meet the 'boat train' at Waterloo Station, a friend of a friend of a..., who is arriving from overseas and may need a little help finding a place to live and a job; and ends with Moses years later, now a Londoner, but thinking about where his decade or so of London life has got him, and wondering if he should return to his island in the Caribbean. It is an immensely human, alive, funny, sad book. I would probably never have come across it had I not been auditing a class on the city of London, that combines history of the city's past hundred years, along with representative books in which the city is the background--like Samuel Selvon's novel.