Sunday, November 01, 2015

Quote London

“A sprawling North London parkland, composed of oaks, willows and chestnuts, yews and sycamores, the beech and the birch; that encompasses the city’s highest point and spreads far beyond it; that is so well planted it feels unplanned; that is not the country but is no more a garden than Yellowstone; that has a shade of green for every possible felicitation of light; that paints itself in russets and ambers in autumn, canary-yellow in the splashy spring; with tickling bush grass to hide teenage lovers and joint smokers, broad oaks for brave men to kiss against, mown meadows for summer ball games, hills for kites, ponds for hippies, an icy lido for old men with strong constitutions, mean llamas for mean children and, for the tourists, a country house, its fa├žade painted white enough for any Hollywood close-up, complete with a tea room, although anything you buy there should be eaten outside with the grass beneath your toes, sitting under the magnolia tree, letting the white blossoms, blush-pink at their tips, fall all around you. Hampstead Heath! Glory of London! Where Keats walked and Jarman fucked, where Orwell exercised his weakened lungs and Constable never failed to find something holy.”
- Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vicky Pryce and Polly Toynbee in Omnibus Clapham

The economist Vicky Price and Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee are or were both long-term residents of Clapham, and appeared together last night at Omnibus to discuss their new books: It’s the Economy Stupid by Vicky Pryce, Peter Unwin and Andy Ross and Cameron’s Coup by Polly Toynbee and David Walker. The event was co-hosted by Clapham Books - it’s great to see collaboration of this sort between our local independent bookshop and Omnibus.

Polly started the evening by praising the successful launch of Omnibus in the old Clapham library, and indeed it is great to see this handsome old Victorian public building finding a new public role in the local community. It certainly adds greatly to the mix of amenities around the new Old Town piazza area.

Both speakers were critical of the Coalition government. Polly spoke of the rigidity and stealthy determination of its ideological purposes; Vicky more of the evidence-free economic policy. Although a liberal herself, she was a government economist under both New Labour and Coalition administrations, and had words of praise for New Labour at least attempting to follow the evidence. Far from having “a long herm economic plan”, the coalition choked off reviving growth and flatlined the economy for its first two years, before surreptitiously u-turning and quietly and half-heartedly loosening fiscal policy. Basically, the Tories are ideologically incapable of accepting that government investment can create growth in the wider economy.

Polly seemed more wholeheartedly to support Labour, but I liked the way she always backed up claims with independent  evidence and sources. She strongly feels this is a very important election, and people should vote tactically to keep the tories out.

It was a very interesting evening, and very well attended: practically a full house.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Quote London - Stockwell Watchmen

It seems north Londoners have always felt a little bit nervous of security arrangements south of the river - I was mildly amused to come across this diary entry by Joshua Wingate Weeks for 30 January 1779:
"When the service was finished I took a walk on the other side of the river into the country as far as Stockwell which is a small village about 4 miles from London ... Vauxhall Gardens are also here, which we passed by. We dined at Stockwell & returned home by another road. It was late in the evening & the lamps which extended from London  to this place were lighted & formed a most august and beautiful appearance. At small distances watchmen armed with musquets are placed to prevent mischief & detect robberies & they have bells placed in such a manner as to give notice to each other by ringing them if any thing remarkable occurs, by which means they could readily come to each others assistance & be upon their guard to prevent the escape of any suspected person."

The security state has had a long history!

(Quote from A London Year: 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison. Published by Frances Lincoln, 2013)