What a week: no blogging done, but the social whirl has been almost complete: that is, I’ve nearly melted to butter.
On this day when London buses are on strike, I will lead with this complete gem of a website, London Buses: One Bus At a Time.
From what I can make out, it is written by a group of retired ladies, who have undertaken this project to ride every inch of every London bus route, in consecutive order, and report it in detail. They have a fine incisive wit, and their site is a new indispensable.
The London buses are striking for parity with the other public transport drivers – tube, Overground and DLR – who are all being given bonuses of £500-900 for working during the Olympics. Their argument – ‘that we do the same work as our colleagues in other transport departments and we should be paid for it’, and that ‘the tourists coming to watch the Games will be everywhere around London’ – is so reasonable that it absolutely exposes the agenda-driven policy of the people organising – and paying for – the Games. Buses aren’t on their map. Special reserved lanes in the public thoroughfares, five-star hotels miles away, and a newly revamped showcase tube network are their game plan. The bus drivers say: ‘We are fighting for workers in London as a whole.’
I hope as many of you as possible will get your vicarious daily fix today by going for a ride with the One Bus at a Time ladies. They strike me as not so much insurrectionist as very practical types, and I’m not sure how impressed they’d be with a load of unfair nonsense.
Meanwhile, here is the marvellous Georgian London, which remains constantly fascinating. I’m linking in particular to the story (it’s not by far the current one, so do click the main header to get the new material too) of Mary Lacy, who ran away to sea and lived as a man for years – becoming a shipwright. It’s a sobering story and then – at the end – a surprising one. It suddenly makes me wonder if, it is own way, the much-maligned 18th century wasn’t a bit more enlightened than our own. You’ll see.
Not forgetting The London Column – for which I still have a nice skyscraper ad in my sidebar, and you can click that instead if you think it’s more fun. The picture above links to a specific post, though. And if you like it, go ‘like’ the London Column Facebook page, too. There are some very good series coming up, and the Facebook page gets extra bits. This week: ‘The London Nobody Knows’, with quotes from the iconic book.
Plundering the treasure of the past in a different way, there is the wonderful Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table. I love this site. It is the Unhappy Hipsters of the present moment, a mirror for our pretensions and self-delusions (and, ahem, living rooms). I spent a Saturday morning in bed reading it all the way back to its first post, and it began to read almost like a wonderful illustrated list poem, with its plangent refrain, ‘Fuck your terrarium’. I found myself looking at each picture first and trying to guess which particular element of egregiosity would be pulled out for derision (or envy – such is human nature). It is fantastically cringe-making to some of us; one friend ruefully noted that he recognised half the books in the pictures by their spines alone, and your correspondent here was raised in a home with both a lamp made of a terrarium AND a big wall mural.
And finally, the plundered. Here are more remarkable Londoners, and more reflection on the Carousel of Time and the centrifugal force of self-delusion.
I’ve finally caught up with this BBC programme, The Secret History of Our Streets, and I think – I think – you still have a couple of weeks to watch it. But do so now, to make sure you don’t miss it. What actually happened to our places? Council documents reveal that houses torn down in the 60s as ‘unfit for human habitation’ were in fact just fine, and the GLC architects (‘Dictators of Deptford’, as one stallholder said at the time) both lied, and suppressed the evidence.
This documentary about the dissolution of the close-knit community of Deptford High Street exposes the hypocrisy, and shows how the tragedy – ultimately – was both for them and for for the people who carried out the outrages that were perpetrated all over London when the tower blocks went up. It’s essential television. Heartbreaking, sobering, and a much-needed call to attention (how did they even get it on? It must have got past someone in the same way they got Les Enfants du Paradis past the Vichy censors) in this monolithic, over-hyped, corporatised, blanded-out and utterly deluded Summer 2012.
Bonus: The excellent Another Nickel in the Machine has a wonderful and extensive piece on the GLC’s plans for Covent Garden in the late 60s. Click if only for the brilliant picture of Lady Dartmouth, later Raine Spencer and Britain’s most famous step-mum.