Posts Tagged ‘London’
I’m delighted that my writing about London’s eel and pie tradition is included in the new UnCommon London book.
UnCommon is a compendium of guide and travel writing “and is more of a ‘companion’ for the traveller before, during and after the journey.” UnCommon London joins editions on Malta, Stockholm and Dubai.
Commissioned by my old friend Mike Fordham, my words are illustrated by May Van Millingen.
Here are a couple of pages to give you an idea…
Here’s a recent portrait assignment for the French magazine L’Express in London. A very interesting hour chatting with British Arabist author James Barr.
The BBC have reported on dastardly ‘dirty tactics’ by London’s much loved and universally admired traffic wardens – I of course find it hard to believe that this could possibly be true of such a fine body of professionals – a bastion of fair play and decency…
I’m delighted that one of the traditional Pie and Mash shops that I was privileged to photograph a couple of years ago has been given Grade II Listed status.
According to the citation, “The building, which was first opened to the public in 1929, has been given the accolade for its ‘beautifully preserved interiors’, which have never been replaced or modernised”
I wrote and photographed at length about London’s dying Pie and Mash shops (and jellied eels) on this blog last year. See here.
Here’s a small selection of images from Manzes in Walthamstow Market.
The Broadway Homeless charity have just reported that London has seen a 43% increase on people sleeping rough in the capital from last year. The only glimmer of home in this figure is that 70% of those aren’t sleeping out for the second night due largely to the actions of charities like Broadway and increased work from outreach teams. This, despite Boris Johnson’s pre-election pledge to ‘end rough sleeping by 2012’. According to a Guardian report in April this year, £5m – underwritten by central government – was diverted from the Mayor’s budget for rough sleepers, to ‘other purposes’. Expect worse to come if proposals to remove housing benefit for under 25’s come to fruition.
There is a clear link between London’s rents becoming more and more unaffordable for large sections of the population and these figures. London is often referred to as a divided city. It isn’t. It is now many cities. Extraordinarily wealth in the centre, guarded and cosseted by technology and private security (tested and honed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan) swimming in an ocean of increasing poverty – material and aspirational – that finds its dreams impossible. All of this underwritten by a facetious, poisonous narrative of unfulfilled personal responsibility and fecklessness.
According to Stuart Hall, cities of the nineteenth century and twentieth centuries were monuments to Imperial power: motors of industrial production and trade. Globalisation has significantly reshaped London and the people sleeping on its streets (or the thousands a breath away from it) as inconvenient dislocations from an industrial to a service economy dictated to by modern day robber barons fixated on personal wealth and profit. I write so much about the Developing World, Delhi in particular (and recently Athens) that it is easy to neglect what is literally under my feet.
I’ve mentioned before about people finding private space for themselves in busy cities so here was a nice little thing – a meditation flash mob – perhaps a couple of hundred people or so came to sit by the stone lion in the great Court of the British Museum on Friday evening… shame I was photographing rather than being a part of it as it looked rather interesting…
I visited the Dickens exhibition at the Museum of London yesterday – a really powerful evocation of the writer and his times.
What always struck me about Dickens was his ability to convey the despair and misery that the city around him housed: no stranger to debt, his past was marked by the fear of slipping back into poverty. I think that the exhibition gave me a very apt adjective to describe the dark underside of a city that I have worked in so much, namely Delhi. Perhaps all societies lurching through such painful Capitalist development are like this – but certainly Delhi is Dickensian in its mercilessness and its cruelty. The lack of a safety net and not-so-subtle machinations of caste mean that the people who produce the city’s wealth by selling their labour are completely at the mercy of the vagaries of the Market and the violence of the street. In a similar fashion to Dickens’ time they must struggle against a whole moral code that tells them they are nothing if they have no status. I’ve mentioned here before a slim volume of reportage and writing from those at the bottom of the dark underbelly of this metropolis called Trickster City and the more that I looked at the exhibition yesterday, the more I thought of Delhi.
Dickens’ “slime and ooze of the Thames” is the realm of the boy who picks bits of detritus out of the poisoned Yamuna River on a pathetic raft of polystyrene and rags. Budi Lal, pouring through other people’s filth and rubbish and ignored by all except the snarling dogs and his debtors is Boffin, the Rag Picker from Our Mutual Friend. The men burning plastic bags could be from the slum in Bleak House; Tom-All-Alone’s.
All of them would recognise Victorian London.