It’s been a busy week, so far. There’s yet more to come.
I’ve been struggling to finish the layout of a poetry book for a friend. Procrastination keeps hampering my progress, it’s all very annoying. Had another crack at the task on Monday until the phone rang. It was a friend inviting me to coffee. I was out of the house in seconds, poetry abandoned, for now.
Tuesday I was on the coach to London. From my home to Victoria the coach is faster than the train, and much cheaper. I enjoy people watching on the way. Once I arrived in central London the traffic became horrendous (it probably was the same before I arrived, I’m not claiming responsibility). I started my journey by bus, but had to abandon it in High Holborn. That allowed me to pop into the Sir John Soanes museum in Lincolns Inn Fields. It’s a fascinating place, preserved by Act of Parliament. Do take a look.
I then took the Tube to Finsbury Park, as with my son, we walked to his home in Crouch End. It’s a part of the world I once knew well, it has now changed, and is apparently set to change even more.
I was disturbed to hear of the actions of local Councils. That’s not to accuse those in London but it brings together a larger malaise, all Councils suffer from the same affliction. Shall I call it stupidity? Let’s do that for the sake of a better word.
The old GLC blocks of flats have a certain appeal, and many generations of Londoners have lived in them. Generally well-built, for they had ‘standards’ in those days what they lacked was a sense of community. The problem was that ‘they’ were responsible. As a tenant you had very few rights or responsibilities. Little has changed.
One block in Islington was rescued by squatters. It is now fully occupied with rents paid to the owners. I’m not sure if that’s the local Council but come what may there is little control exercised by the tenants. The caretaker, who once lived on the premises, now lives in Kent. That’s a madness. How can they care when they live on the other side of London? Tenants look after each other in a rudimentary fashion. Each block has at least one unstable tenant. It may be a drunk, unable to care for themselves, or an elderly person, a drug addict, or even a dealer. Nobody else cares.
Each block as a garden. That’s often a slab of tarmac but some may have grass. Teams of ‘gardeners’ will arrive, each armed with a mechanical buzzer of some kind that are used to strim the grass, flail bushes and trees. Occasionally they will improve the area. One tenant planted tomatoes in a square metre or so of ground. All were strimmed flat by the ‘gardener’. The tenants asked to plant fruit trees. The gardeners planted a short row of sycamores instead. Perhaps hoping that these trees will produce more leaf and seeds that will need to be noisily blown up and down the street.
In London Borough of Newham the Carpenter Estate is the centre of a controversy. The Council, pound signs flashing, wants to sell off this estate to Malaysian property developers, despite having a list of folk desperate for somewhere to live that is over 24,000 applicants.
The deep malaise is that many Councils are run as dictatorships. There is no opposition. Newham is 100% Labour, Suffolk Coastal Council has a deep blue core. This means that very few people are involved in decisions that affect whole communities. One suspect official, a planning officer perhaps, can blight an area for generations, and possibly do so just to serve his own needs. One Councillor can strut around like Napoleon with no-one to question their motives.
I like travelling by bus in London. It is always changing. It’s unfortunate to see so many buildings, or spaces between buildings, that could be used for housing. Equally it is dreadful to know that many office blocks are unoccupied. One that I helped build 25 years ago is about to be demolished, so they can build another one. It is criminal activity.
I was told of a new development of social housing where Boris the Mop is saying the rent will be £2800 per month, and he regards that as socially acceptable. Welcome to the Blue World, where you are urged to work and pay taxes by people who have never done either.
We strolled along the South Bank. It’s become very interesting in later years. It was sunny and lovely until we reached the Festival Hall. Then the heavens opened. It rained. No, there was someone up there emptying the bath water over us. It deluged, forcing us to take lunch at the only pub that is on the Embankment, close to Tate Modern.
We went toTate Modern to see the Malevich exhibition. Of its time it may have been. To read the reviews I should have been stunned. I was shocked by the quality of the sound on a video based on his designs. It was inaudible. Such a waste.
As my son said Tate Britain has always been a pleasure. There are rooms that remain largely unchanged. There’s great pleasure from seeing a familiar painting. The world now wants change, spectacle and lacks concentration. You don’t even have to listen, just spend a few seconds watching a poorly-made video and move on. I wanted to go back to Sir John Soanes.