The Past Is A Safer Country

Christopher Fowler
07 What has the above object got to do with the subject under discussion today? It's a blanket currently on sale at the London Transport Museum, and its pattern is the printed design of Routemaster bus seat material. If you're a Londoner you've probably seen it your whole life and not registered it, except that it looks kind of friendly. Familiar things have a warmth to them. I took these two photos in the supposedly swinging, go-ahead, edgy hip world of the trendy new King's Cross, where I live.
One is of a young woman in a cafe that looks as if it was taken in 1935, the other is a band in the King Charles I pub, clearly shot in 1887. IMG_3885The band was playing American folk (very well indeed) and I thought it was nice that there were black and white women playing good ol' boy stuff, sort of claiming it for themselves. When you think that it's just a short walk from here to Piccadilly Circus, it seems as if London streets can still surprise, because they change so quickly despite being almost on top of each other. Mental attitude and style seems to be very retro at the moment - one of the top-rated TV shows is not a high-flying big-budget US TV series but Cameron Crook and Toby Young in 'Detectorists', about a couple of locals with a hobby who spend quite a lot of time in a garden shed. In uncertain times we retreat to the past, but in these cases it's a rather attractive retreat that involves rebuilding the past in a form that you'd like it to be. IMG_3902 As for King's Cross, I miss the 1980s vibe of Bagley's nightclub turning out on a Sunday morning, where you were likely to see dozens of girls dressed in pink rubber nurses' outfits tottering past stoned out of their minds. Most of the earnest students around here now dress like Young Conservatives from 1975 or upmarket lumberjacks from the 1880s, and the only thing they're really interested in is getting on with their careers. In other words, we've got the generation their parents really hoped for, and it's a bit boring. One can't blame them - it's a coldly competitive place now, London, more like New York than it ever was. For many young people a future of debt and worry seems to stretch out ahead of them.
In my lifetime the mentality has changed from 'You never had it so good' to 'Sorry, we used up all the good times'.  


Vivienne (not verified) Fri, 05/12/2014 - 21:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

No one has responded to this yet. Hope we are not all enveloped in a fug of pessimism.

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 05/12/2014 - 22:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Think we're just bemused and wondering how we can order the blanket. I just bought a new hat that looks rather similar to the one the young lady in the cafe is wearing. No point in pessimism - just get on with whatever is next.

Jo W (not verified) Sat, 06/12/2014 - 07:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've always looked forward to pessimism. 😳

John Griffin (not verified) Sat, 06/12/2014 - 21:28

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I live to see Osborne hanging off Tower Bridge - now that's optimism.

Michael (not verified) Tue, 09/12/2014 - 08:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Re the blanket, that is based on the design of the fabric on the New Bus for London not the Routemaster.

On the bus seats it is weirdly distorted to the shape of the seats but you can see the basic design as per this blanket on the big cushion pad in the wheelchair/pushchair zone.

Definitely has a retro feel to it anyway