Tales Of The Cities
England has just come second (after Bhutan!) as the world’s best place to visit as voted by Lonely Planet, and their reasoning is strong. I’ve been feeling for a while that it’s time for me to explore the UK a bit more, not just on PAs. I gave up my car years ago, so I’ll be travelling by train looking at cities.
Seeing them from above has always fascinated me, as long-haul readers will know – my first novel ‘Roofworld’ was about disaffected youths living on the rooftops of London, but I was unable to gain access to key vantage points until after the book was published, when the Sunday Times managed to get me to the top of Centrepoint, the Telecom Tower and (this was long before the Shard, obvs) other high spots.
Rachel Green’s link in the comments section of the previous post shows London’s skewed symmetry from above to good effect. Check out those photos and compare them to this one, of Barcelona’s working class neighbourhood, Barceloneta.
That squarish thing on the beach top right is a sculpture called The Crooked House. BCN has many modernist sculptures, something that London is only lately getting to grips with.While we have some delightful sculptural additions to public spaces, there have been some horrible missteps, most notably Paul Day’s appallingly kitsch snoggers in St Pancras Station, balanced out by the lovely statue of Betjeman.
The Crooked House might have been named for London’s properties. Although our backstreets are still packed with Edwardian terraces the city’s unused and unnoticed spaces were very quickly noticed by developers when house prices soared, and the most extraordinary homes appeared in the cracks and crevices. Despite all efforts to transform London into a gigantic money-laundering machine, the Old Lady remains fairly unchangeable – views have been transformed but much is still as I saw it in the 1960s.
One massive change is noticeable however. The city was always dark and cold, so that even in midsummer light did not cut into the narrow streets. With the increased population and rising temperatures, London is no longer frosty and snowbound in winter and hardly ever misty in the mornings, so it has swapped its lonely, eerie atmosphere for another that’s more chaotic and bright. Going to Cambridge last week reminded me that outside of the city the temperature plunges.