Blitzed Again

11th September 1940

11th September 1940

I’m a Londoner born&bred. A total Londonphile. I’d have a London passport if I could. And my hobby is being a flaneur with a camera, wandering around the city aimlessly taking photos.

Today I’m taking a staycation and headed off for Paddington. I’m now sat on the bank of the Grand Union Canal a bit beyond Little Venice in the Spring sunshine.

When I went on a similar (un)mission on Saturday it struck me for the first time that London really is in danger. I headed to Borough as a starting point. I really couldn’t find any real people to photograph – just sheepish tourists in queues at a market with no proper stalls selling largely non-local food. I remember enjoying eating in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral not that many years ago – I couldn’t even find where that was. There were just wall-to-wall visitors chowing down legs crossed, penned in. I couldn’t find anything worth eating.

I retreated onto London Bridge and headed over into the weekend City. It was punctuated with cranes. Building sites everywhere. Fox, a shop established in 1868, with its silver Art Deco frontage was empty.

I bussed out to The Angel to the canal. Rammed with French speakers (and I’m happy London is now the 5th or 6th biggest French city) adding, in the lack of variety, to the feel of a city being smoothed over and having the edges knocked off. I managed to get some good shots with the camera I just bought the Enfants Terribles but it was an unusual struggle.

On my way out today I picked up a copy of Time Out. The cover was Save London. So it’s obviously not just me feeling this vibe. This is the first time in my life London feels under real threat on a Blitz scale. Property developers who don’t care; dirty money playing Monopoly; Euroblandness; buy-to-let neglect; chain everything death by consumerism; a wash of global sameness from the Internet age and Capitalism eating itself.

The city I love is in real peril. Better a Dornier than a Subway.

Brave New London (complete with crane)

Brave New London (complete with crane)

10 comments so far

  1. theluckhabit on

    I feel the same. The corporatist takeover.

  2. catalanbrian on

    I am of course now not a Londoner, having given up its joys to the wilds of Catalunya, but I couldn’t agree more. I, too am pretty unimpressed by the likes of Borough Market which has now moved from being a market to an overprices outdoor supermarket. I have some very early memories of Borough Market when in the 1950s, during school holidays, I would sometimes go to the market on the lorry with the produce from my father’s farm. We would deliver the stuff to the family stall (S.Thorogood & Sons) and would have breakfast in a local pub or cafe, before returning to load the lorry for the following day.

    You also mention that the Fox umbrella shop has closed which rather upsets me as I used to work near to that shop and still have a couple of umbrellas purchased therefrom.

    Yes, London has changed and not in my view for the better. Decent coffee such as the Jamaica Blue Mountain sold at Jamaica Blue (forced out of business by Starbucks opening two shops within spitting distance) is now pretty much unavailable in London. One of the great joys of Spain is that superb coffee is available everywhere, unless of course you have been stupid enough to cross the threshold of the limited number of Starbucks outlets, which are fortunately only found in the big cities. Pubs are becoming clones of one another, presumably because they are owned by pubcos that are clones of one another.

    Current architecture seems to be a competition to see just how silly a building can be and,more importantly, how silly it’s name can be. I do like the Swiss Re building (silly name “the Gherkin) and I do like the Lloyd’s building which is unashamedly modern and sits cheek by jowl next to the beautiful Leadenhall Market. My favourite building in London is, however, the Aviva building just over the road from the “Gherkin”. It was built in the 1960s, so was probably designed in the 1950s and it still looks stupendous. A building that pretends to be nothing more than an office block and because of that it is so much more.

    That is where I will end this tirade for fear of boring my audience!

  3. ArkAngel on

    Don’t get me started on coffee, Brian. The best cup I ever tasted (and I’ve downed a lot) was a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain on Rupert Street. Never been able to replicate it. Brands like Costa and Cafe Nero are only a notch above Subway (because they don’t smell like shit).

    • catalanbrian on

      Yes that is the building. I think that it is just perfection in a building. THe fact that it has no frilly twists and twirls and is just purely functional really appeals to me.

      On coffee I think that we share similar views. The stuff that the likes of Costa, Starfucks etc is just so awful that they should be prosecuted under the trades descriptions act for misleading their customers, because surely it cannot be coffee that they serve. I cannot comment on Subway because I have never been able to cross their threshold due to the dreadful smell of their food.

      The memories of lazy afternoons in Jamaica Blue almost bring tears to my was so good. I am glad that you experienced it.

  4. ArkAngel on

    Where was/is Jamaica Blue?

  5. catalanbrian on

    Jamaica Blue was in Maddox Street W1. The best coffee shop in town.

  6. catalanbrian on

    Sadly it closed down in 2002 or 2003

  7. ArkAngel on

    That’s not where I had my momentous first cup of Blue Mountain – that was on Rupert St but I can’t recall the name of the establishment. This thread is making me feel a serious urge to find some more soon!

  8. […] Rogers also spoke about how, when he comes home to his self-designed Georgian conversion in Chelsea most of the buildings he walks by at night have next to no lights on since they are not homes but investments of the rich and foreign, they are laundered cash and expressions of no faith in their own nations. They are emblems of the last 5 years of Tory-driven government, empty, an insult to the sufferers of the nationwide housing crisis, dark, undermining of this great city, my native London. For the first time in my life it is deteriorating before my eyes – as I discussed here in Blitzed Again. […]

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