Up in London on Friday night to see The Long Notes at The Underworld. The Underworld is an old venue below The World’s End pub in Camden. I hadn’t been to the World’s End in year but it felt much the same. After a couple of support acts The Long Notes came on and played a selection of celtic tunes from their new album The Shadow Of Stromboli. Good stuff!
The next day I headed for The British Museum to see the Grayson Perry exhibition The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman. As I meandered my way toward my destination I stopped to look in a little gallery named The Outsiders on Greek Street. It held some interesting work based mainly around sharks and butterflies. The viscous and the delicate. Further along on Charing Cross Road I browsed in the windows at the various book displays. Amidst the noise of the buses and the random strangers passing by I mused that, as technology and commercialism advance, these simple delights of the metropolis will be lost. As we all move to electronic books, the bookshops will close down and be replaced by a Charing Cross Road book shop exhibition. It has started already as the variety of human existence is gradually being erased from British town centres. The area around Tottenham Court Road tube station is still under development. No doubt it wil be necessary to build a lot of identikit shops on top of it and I wondered what future lay in store for Denmark Street with it’s historic shops selling musical instruments. Further along a hint lay in store for me in the form of a map along with some blurb promoting it as Tin Pan Alley. Ordinary people naturally create fascinating and culturally significant monuments in our cities. Riddley Road Market perhaps or Denmark Street. As commercialism swirls around them, these monuments become caricatures of themselves. I fully expect that in years to come, when Dalston is inhabited by 99% white bankers, Riddley Road Market will be covered over by a dome, sponsored by Sainsbury’s and awful watered down Caribbean music will be played over a sound system. It’s already being called Riddley Road “shopping village”. I expect Denmark street will go the same way. It’s sad but everything has it’s season. The kids will create something new.
And on the subject of something new this exactly what Mr. Perry has on display at The British Museum. He has very cleverly picked out various items from the museum’s extensive collection of ancient artefacts and displayed them alongside new works of his own. The effect is to place contemporary art in context. Yes, Mr. Perry’s art may be in vogue and may be worth millions and all the rest of it but at it’s basic level these are artefacts. They are creations of mankind in the 21st century and they reflect the society of which they are a part.
I particularly liked Head Of A Fallen Giant, an, apparently, metal skull studded with symbols of Britishness and likened by Mr. Perry to an old sea mine left washing around in the sea for years. The large tapestry entitled Map Of Truths And Beliefs was a wonder and it struck me that Mr. Perry appears to be using symbolism in the same way as classicist painters. Mr. Perry is amazingly prolific and has produces numerous works in all kinds of mediums from tapestry to cast metal to engineering as in his Kenilworth AM1 motorbike. The exhibition is a definitive must see.
Have been in London for a couple of days. Highbury looking beautiful with blossom on all the trees and the daffodils in bloom. Arsenal football stadium is Amazing. Bicycles everywhere. Down the West End, China Town crammed with delivery vans in the morning and in Sloane Square an old woman feeds the pigeons while an ancient Harrods electric delivery van trundles past, the driver sporting a grey top hat.
An enormous horses head sculpture by Nic Fiddian-Green now stands at Marble Arch and walking back along Oxford Street I looked for the first time at the extravagant sculpture over the doors of Selfridges which seems based on a nautical motif. On Tottenham Court Road a queue formed for the new iPad2 at PC World.
Later, in the evening, the Cafe Oto in Dalston had some kind of music event underway but the bloke on the door wanted £12 so I declined and continued on to The Prince George which, to my delight, had Neil Young’s Words on the juke box.
On Saturday morning I noticed that the top of Charing Cross Road has been closed off for work on the London Underground. A lot of work going on there.
In Trafalgar Square the Fourth Plinth currently supports a large ship in a bottle. At around 11am people gathered as for the anti-cuts demonstration and a group of women from the Association of Child Psychotherapists sort of put the cuts into perspective.
Further toward Victoria, in St James Park, the squirrels are practically tame and leap onto the railings to beg for food. Once they receive something they rush away to bury their little treasure in the flower beds.
I was up in London today and had a look around Dalston in Hackney. Busy busy busy, at least it was along Kingsland Road near Dalston Junction. Ridley Road market was busy too as is normal for a Saturday. Wow, the ripe peppers look good! And what do you know? They have finally opened Dalston Junction station again which now links Dalston to Canary Wharf. No wonder the property prices have shot up.
Just by Dalston Junction station they have built a new apartment complex named Dalston Square. Not really in keeping with the other buildings but it will pack in the people who work in Canary Wharf. It simultaneously amuses and irritates me that the façade along the front of Dalston Square has pictures of famous London sites presumably to suggest that Dalston Square is itself in the same league as the fabulous Gothic St. Pancras Station. A little further down Dalston Lane, before Queensbridge Road, there have always been some old shops. Music systems, Jerk chicken, various stuff which gave the area some character. It seems that the houses behind them, known as Dalston Lane Terraces, are Grade 2 listed and have been left empty and are becoming derelict. The council sold them but bought them back recently and now the squatters who occupy some of them have received court papers to try and get them out.
The squatters say that they have been contributing to the community especially in the arts. They want to stay in the properties until renovation work commences and will allow access to surveyors. They are concerned that if they are thrown out then the buildings will rapidly degrade. They state that in the past squatters have been evicted from other buildings only for the council to render buildings uninhabitable by filling drains with concrete and removing cabling.
The squatters say that they are keen to talk to the council but that it has been difficult to “open a channel of communication” and they have now started a petition.
Given the way that buildings have been demolished to make way for Dalston Square and the huge gaps in the Dalston skyline where other buildings have been demolished it is understandable that one might think that the real motive for evicting the squatters is to demolish the buildings to build another high rise, faceless, well appointed bunch of rabbit hutches.
Check out http://dalstonlane.tumblr.com/ for more information.
I was up in London for a Christmas drink over the weekend. Starting at the Prince George in Dalston, we made our way to the Railway Tavern on Kingsland Road and then to the Kings Arms in Islington. Then on to the Three Greyhounds in Soho and a handful of other pubs thereafter. London boozers are splendid. I lived in Dalston some years ago and the Prince George has not changed a bit. Basic, polished wood and practical design that are sadly missing in pubs in Hove.
In the West End some kind of Internet flash crowd event seemed to be underway and there were hundreds of people dressed as Santa Claus. Every pub we went in there would be a handful of Santas supping pints.
I was working in Denmark last week. Ryan Air from Stansted to Aarhus, missed the Monday flight as the parking zone was already full. Got the Tuesday flight and then straight into a meeting in Silkeborg. Friendly chap, your Dane. Very straightforward and honest, it seems to me. On Wednesday evening I went out to look at the stars after dinner and got chatting to a Dane who was having a smoke. We compared notes on Danish society and I pontificated that Britain has more private wealth whereas Denmark has more public wealth. He said “We (Danes) are happy when even the poor can get health care”. That seemed to me the mark of a civilised society. In Britain we seem only to be happy when we can get something for ourselves. Even then, we are not really happy.
Got back on Friday afternoon then up to London in the evening for a pre Christmas dinner with some work friends. The Imperial China in Lisle Street. Leicester Square very busy. As I rode the escalator down into the tube I looked at the hundreds of people squeezing their way around and it struck me that I was one of the few who were older than 40.
I moved to London in 1986 and I think in those days the consumerist revolution had not yet swept across Britain. London was not so crowded and the infrastructure had not been modernised. On my first Saturday in London, I hopped on an old Routemaster bus and keenly remember the excitement as this post war icon rattled and shook it’s way down Threadneedle Street.
In those days London was like a massive playground for me. Something weird and interesting around every corner. Boozers, museums, markets. Oxford Street at Christmas, thousands of books at Foyle’s, the 100 club for a late drink. I loved to stand on the corner of Oxford Street and Charring Cross Road and watch the people. Dalston was a place I felt at home. – “But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away, An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay”….. Hmm… perhaps that doesn’t quite work but the sentiment is the same.
Arrived in Brighton about 1am and walking briskly down the hill I found myself drinking Guinness in the Quadrant. Late licensing laws are, at least, one change for the better.
On Saturday night I watched Talking Heads on BBC2. This is a series of monologues written by Alan Bennet and this one was Thora Hird playing Violet in Waiting for the Telegram. This was extremely good. Violet is an elderly woman in an old people’s home. She has been told that soon she will be receiving a telegram from the Queen. Her mind drifts back to the days when a telegram meant the death of a young man in the first world war She’s had a stroke and can’t remember words. Talking to a male nurse she gets a bit sad and says: “Don’t get yourself …..Like when you don’t come home, back, khaki and poppies”. It’s her birthday and she says:”They kept saying that a few more years and I’ll be getting the……” and she forgets the word……..”lad comes on a bike, folks stood at the door weeping…. – Telegram!”
On Desert Island Discs this morning Baroness Scotland selected Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu. I’ve heard this before but never figured out what it was. With troops in Afghanistan and the economy in recession, and not withstanding my devout agnosticism, the words seem very appropriate as we come up to Christmas.
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest.
Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest