Unintentional Beauty

“Franz said, ‘Beauty in the European sense has always had a premeditated quality to it. We’ve always had an aesthetic intention and a long-range plan. That’s what enabled Western man to spend decades building a Gothic cathedral or a Renaissance piazza. The beauty of New York rests on a completely different base. It’s unintentional. It arose independent of human design, like a stalagmitic cavern. Forms which are in themselves quite ugly turn up fortuitously, without design, in such incredible surroundings that they sparkle with a sudden wondrous poetry.’

   Sabina said, ‘Unintentional beauty. Yes. Another way of putting it might be “beauty by mistake.” Before beauty disappears entirely from the earth, it will go on existing for a while by mistake. “Beauty by mistake” – the final phase in the history of beauty.’

   And she recalled her first mature painting, which came into being because some red paint had dripped on it by mistake. Yes, her paintings were based on ‘beauty by mistake’, and New York was the secret but authentic homeland of her painting.

   Franz said, “Perhaps New York’s unintentional beauty is much richer and more varied than the excessively strict and composed beauty of human design. But it’s not our European beauty. It’s an alien world.’

   Didn’t they then at last agree on something?

   No. There is a difference. Sabina was very much attracted by the alien quality of New York’s beauty. Franz found it intriguing but frightening; it made him feel homesick for Europe.”

Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Locations in The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires we followed in the footsteps of one of the characters of Eric Stener Carlson’s “The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires”  as he made his way to the Institute for the Study and Resolution of Contested Glacier Frontiers (ISRCGF).


“I’m sure you’ve seen that wonderful building while window-shopping in Bario Norte. Its eight floors perch just above the gaudy, red canopy of the ‘El Tolón’ Café.



Up and up past all the other apartments until the cupola, a dome shingled like some ancient, grey fish. Mine is the apartment with the smallest window, all the way at the top.



As I go towards the Bulnes subway station, I pass by the mouth of the Alto Palermo shopping centre.



If you go down the steps on the shopping mall side and through the turnstile, there’s no option but taking the line towards ‘Catedral’.



Ah, those colourful tiles by Cattaneo and Co. set into the walls of the ‘D’line’s stations back in 1938!



In Bulnes, the mural ends just before that grey, metal, door recessed into the wall.



On the other side of the tracks, there’s the door’s twin, also always locked.



Within the mural, look for the zafra scene, a nondescript arrangement of sugarcane cutters, machetes held high. Within the scene, there is a picture of a large, brown pulley from which extends a cable going to a spar and a series of hooks.




When you get off at Tribunales, turn right.



At the other end of the platform, to your right, is another set of stairs going up. You must take these, because above them looms another Cattaneo mural dedicated to the conquistadores – shiny armor, rippling flags, proud ships and all.



Then out the turnstiles and to your right, up the mechanical stairs.



As a testament to Lavalle’s victory, a marble likeness of him thrusts skyward on a column just a block behind you…




Look down at the concrete blocks that compose the walkway.




Starting just where the ornamental fence begins to circle the plaza, you’ll see regular pattern of concrete rectangles 49 cm x 90 cm laid lengthwise.



Hug close to the plumbing supply store but not too close to the terrible synagogue looming to your right.


But it’s not until you reach the street corner up ahead that, all of a sudden, 9 de Julio Avenue opens up before you, like Machu Picchu rising from the mist…


The sight of the obelisk, towering 67 metres over the intersection of 9 de Julio, Roque Saenz Pena and Corrientes Avenue, will steady your nerves, reassure you of your goal.


As you reach Café Madeleine on the corner, you may be feeling rather giddy from the effort.


Past the cheap bookstand. A little more, and there, you arrive at 719 Pellegrini.


There was not, however, a squat, grey building encrusted with angels. There was not, for that matter, any building whatsoever.

Locations in Mark Samuels’ In the Face of Twilight

Mark Samuels’ bleak novella of urban horror, In the Face of Twilight, is set in London. Living in London, and being somewhat familiar with the settings in this story, this created a unique opportunity to see what places in his book actually do exist.

What follows is a selection of photos taken of locations that feature in In the Face of Twilight. Although some of the names of the real locations may be different from the story, based on all information given in the book, I am confident that these are the places that were portrayed.

‘Ivan Gilman had little choice when it came to deciding to rent the studio flat on the Archway Road.’ [page 3]

‘No more than twenty paces from his front door, the Rochester pub occupied the northern corners just south of his new flat.’ [page 6]

A luxuriant array of plants and flowers hung in the baskets around the walls and along the fire escape which one had to descend to reach the courtyard.’ [page 12]

‘He had also developed a strange fascination with nearby Archway Bridge’. [page 15]

‘The first portion of the approach ritual required him to begin from Archway Underground station.’ [page 18]

‘It was first required that one contemplated the Archway Tower, a great black monolith that had gone up in the 1970s above the Underground Station.’ [page 18]

‘Gilman trudged up Highgate Hill, passed ….., and the great eponymous hospital on the hill.  [page 19]

‘… this time on the approach to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Its great green dome dominated the skyline,…’ [page 19]

‘In front of the church building was a statue of the Saint,…’ [page 19]

‘As he forced himself up Swains Lane he could almost believe that he was in some remote part of the countryside.’ [page 20]

‘To Gilman’s right was the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, a two storey whitewashed Georgian Building.’ [page 20]

‘Now, once Gilman stood within Pond Square itself, the spire of the television mast that was his destination was clearly visible.’ [page 20]

‘He took shelter in the middle of the square underneath the overhanging roof of an abandoned public lavatory. ‘ [page 21]

‘He decided to make his way to the Sceptre Tavern in darkest Holborn.’ [page 27]

‘After a minute or so he saw the archway with the sign, just before Holborn Circus. It was fixed on a Victorian street lamp that had been converted to run off electricity instead of gas, and it read “The Sceptre Tavern”.’ [page 28]

‘Just around the corner, under a low doorway, was a snuggery bearing the legend “Ye Closet” in which Gilman’s crowd met.’ [page28]

‘Gilman looked west; to his left were the tottering Tudor buildings that had lasted for hundreds of years…’ [page 53]

‘The train drew to a halt at Goodge Street Station,…’ [page 70]

‘Gilman found himself on Malet Street and saw that the book emporium on the corner with Gower Street was open for business.’ [page 84]

‘Gilman was amazed and terrified when the bus drew alongside what had formerly been the disused Underground station York Road,….’ [page 104 /105]

‘Although at first bewildered, he quickly realised that he had somehow staggered into the old West section of Highgate Cemetery after last night’s debauch.’ [page115/116]