Welcome To Smallpoxville
This comes via the ever-excellent Skip’s Acorn Treasury – Skip’s not his real name but I’ve forgotten what it is, although I did meet him at a dinner. I think he probably thought I was overexcited and annoying, as I become when I meet people I instantly like.
Near King’s Cross is an area called Somerstown. It’s quite nice, and mainly comprises an award-winning real ale pub, a French gastropub, a great bakery, some flats and houses, a street of pretty good Indian restaurants rather like a mini-Brick Lane, and some bored kids who congregate on corners. The kids are lost in their own world and move politely out of the way as you pass.
This is the area portrayed by Shane Meadows, director of painful British neo-realist films (ie relentlessly glum and impenetrably accented) as violent, crime-riddled and slum-like, in the same way that lazy journalists still refer to the streets of King’s Cross as ‘sleazy’. OK, it’s true that our local sex shop shares its loo with that of the elegant cake shop next door, but there is a sign on the door warning you.
The point is that the area’s transformation into a pleasant neighbourhood is still at a fairly fragile stage. So of course, it will now house a giant biochemical unit where the world’s deadliest diseases will be stored, probably by teenagers listening to death metal on their iShuffles. You know – like in ‘Return Of The Living Dead’.
To be fair, the area has long been associated with exotic diseases. A local cinema commercial that used to run in Camden famously had a voiceover on it that said ‘Come to the Rupal Indian Restaurant, next door to the Tropical Diseases Hospital’, because everyone was familiar with that big red-brick building.
So the architects put out a CAD-photo making the proposed centre look like a cross between a second-rate university and a suburban Toys-R-Us, artfully hidden by trees. ‘Oh,’ the couple bottom right are saying, ‘let’s pop in and see if our flesh-eating virus vaccine is in stock.’
Now they’ve come clean and posted a follow-up shot which reveals the monumental size of it and the Auschwitz-style corpse-burning chimneys on the top. Look for future references to Somerstown as ‘Outbreak Epicentre’ on Sky News.
Not content with the ruination of Camden Market and proposing that a needle exchange be placed beside an international railway station, Camden Council is clearly maintaining its image as London’s Greatest Urban Threat.
I used to live in the neighbourhood, and when the terrace opposite me was torn down, Camden proposed building a vast corrugated steel wall to replace it. Their reasoning: ‘You’re in an urban neighbourhood and we wanted to reflect this.’
I had to explain that we didn’t all want to be reminded of the area’s grim Victorian factory roots every time we looked out of the window.
So, thanks a bunch, Skip, you’ve turned me into a NIMBY.