As freezing fog and snow continue to paralyse London, I’m heading to Langshott Manor today, in the Sussex countryside. This is the kind of place overseas visitors get teary-eyed about, although I don’t personally have the Noel Coward gene and tend to regard such places with horror, associating them with floral brocade curtain tiebacks, flinty-eyed landladies, nasal receptionists, kippers, harrumphing ex-military types, and dining rooms whose eerie hush is only broken by the rustle of the Daily Telegraph. Heritage England gets a bit too Fawlty Towers for me.
As indeed it must for Alan Bennett, whose new play ‘People’ looks at the commoditisation of everything that was once shabby and quiet and taken for granted. He misses as many targets as he hits, but it’s a very funny journey.
However, I did get the English Sensation from waking up yesterday to find the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral covered in snow and looking remarkably like a Gustave Dore print (sorry, no facility for typing accents on WordPress that I can see). In fact, the whole of Marylebone and Mayfair had a picturebook quality because no-one had yet ventured out to disturb the sparkling pristine snow.
It has been pointed out that London’s boroughs now reflect English villages in structure, with a town hall, village pub, market, outdoor gathering spot, village green or square and weekly localised events. Once you start noticing this the initially ludicrous analogy slowly becomes apparent, although the city version has more stabbings.
On Sunday I venturing out to the achingly hip Riding House Cafe for breakfast, although this early it was largely filled with folks who had aching hips, and I realised that even the faux-vieux decor echoed that once found in English villages, with craquelure tiling, plank floors and reclaimed beams. In one nearby bar a counter light turned out to be constructed of about fifty upturned English teacups with tiny LEDs inside. Dow the road, the Booking Office Bar in the Gilbert Scott is reminiscent of a town cathedral, with immense bells in its vaulted ceiling.
Meanwhile, the next hot London fashion look is apparently going to be based on the clothing of Yorkshire miners (don’t get me started on that). As high streets turn away from corporate giants toward small vendors, and rural villages continue to add chain-stores, it’s going to get harder to tell which is country and which is city.
No post tomorrow as I’ll be on route to St Lucia in the West Indies.