Love Amongst the Ruins
Sometimes it almost feels as if London has entered a Golden Age. The increasingly benevolent climate, the sparkling near mineral-water quality of the Thames, the clean white buildings, the concrete, stone and glass all cleaned and polished up by money. We’ve been purified by wealth, flushed and depilated, scrubbed and sanitised. There is electricity and light and music everywhere. Traffic wardens, and CCTVs shepherd and watch over us. Generally, ugliness and obesity – like poverty – have been banished to the provinces. Nearly everybody I see looks passable these days and often they look stylish, hip, smart, groovy and skinny. The cracks and crannies are gone (or have been papered over with banknotes at least).That often feels good I think – but with it has come a strange sense of vulnerabilty or foreboding. Do you feel that too? We have so much to lose now don’t we? And worse, we are so ill-equipped to deal with any loss at all. Is this how Rome felt at the end? – this beautifully civilised leaning on the edge of things? Occasionally a wailing ambulance irritates with a reminder of birth, sickness or death and now and then the odd police car speeding south or east disrupts our sang-froid a little, but generally we seem to have become ‘comfortably numb’.
Speaking of which,on Saturday, we went to see Battersea power station for the last time before its redevelopment begins. It is as magnificent in its ruin as it surely was in its industrial strength glory. Neglect has not really harmed it at all – well, not in the way that say Starbucks, Gap and Tesco Express shortly will. From the publicity material, it seems that it is destined to be filled with advertising ‘creatives’ (sic), oriental investors getting their money out while there’s time and mortgaged-to-the-hilt aspirational young couples. Would J G Ballard approve? Probably. He recently said that he would like to see London erased and rebuilt in the manner of the Heathrow Hilton. I was sad for that – I have long admired him but it seems he has been reading his own press and gone all literal on us. But I was much sadder about what is happening to Battersea. Every age has its losses and the city has never stood still but of all the things that could have happened here, why have we settled for something so weedy? Could we not stand to leave one glorious ruin?
Well. if we don’t teeter over the edge before the work is complete, you never know – it could all turn out nice again ……..
……and pigs might fly