Up The Smoke on Saturday. Lunch and a few beers. The area around Victoria Station is a building site and they had closed the area where the buses pull up. Tape across each entrance. To alleviate the massive disruption that this would normally cause London Transport had provided information in the form of a somnambulist attendant lying horizontal on a garden chair in a little shed. If you could be arsed you could queue up to chat with this Guru through a little hole in a window and he would tell you that all the buses were cancelled. If you persisted he would say: “oh well you could get the 24 from around the corner to the left by the glass building” and you would spend the next half hour wandering around trapped in a maze of 7 foot high metal fences looking at scores of spanking new glass buildings going up around Victoria.
After my eventual escape I made my way to Leicester Square to carry out a ritual which has emerged only after centuries of scientific innovation. My friend and I both phoned each other and when one of us finally got through we only then bothered to look around to experience the real world. Then one of us said “I can see you” and we hung up.
Ate generic burger in Byrons and wandered down to the Mall Gallery to see the British Life Photography exhibition. A few good images ( some of Brighton ) but mostly a bit dull. Is this really British life?
The Harp provided a good pint of Guinness but on entering the Coal Hole, a wall of contorted faces staring over our heads meant just one thing: a TV set positioned over the door. And the din of over excited shouting meant Rugby. And so it was with pub after pub; individual conversation crushed under the jackboot of collective sport until we entered the Punch and Judy with the words of Hilaire Belloc ringing in my ears “When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England”.
It was like Butlins! Stuffed with holiday makers from Hull or Harrogate or Hamburg or Hawaii or Hue or Huizhou all queuing, queuing, queuing for the dishwater which the Serbian serving operative assured us was traditional English Bitter. ‘twas ever thus in The Punch and Judy. Thence to somewhere named Henry’s which resembled the below-stairs of a cross channel ferry. The same people from the last place had got in ahead of us and taken most of the seats. A rabble of Hen Night women spilled into the gap before the bar and shouted their coctails orders over the deafening ambiance. Serves us right for choosing Covent Garden on a Saturday but I guess this too was British life.
This morning I see that the Crocuses are out and Brighton and Hove council have published portrayals of how the new King Alfred development will look. No surprises; it will look like everywhere else. Like Harlow only shinier. Like Gatwick Airport. Like a scene from Grand Theft Auto. I wonder if they use the same images for all developments? Probably they use the same scene rendering software for mock ups of apartment blocks as they use for Grand Theft Auto. In this instance the developers have clicked Young People=Yes, Old People=No, Congestion=None, Litter =None, Weather=Fabulous. In short, they’d changed all the defaults for Hove. Hopefully the council included a general cleanup and euthanizing half of Hove’s population in the budget.
One can imagine that in 10 years time some teenager will wake from their drunken stupor and not know whether they’re in Hove or Houston, Brighton or Boston. Indeed they may wonder whether they just fell asleep with their VR goggles on. The video mock up of the King Alfred looks like an early version of Second Life and the gym resembles a scene from Black Mirror; row upon row of human/machine interfaces modules (HMIMs) allowing “customers” to have excess physical energy siphoned off while they are programmed with the current priorities of the corporations.
“We are all individuals” they repeat like the beach huts on Hove Prom, “we all think differently”, “we can all choose for ourselves” and then they head next door to the café for a Mocha or Latte or Americano. “I like mine with chocolate sprinkles”, “I like mine with vanilla”, “I like mine regular” while Madonna sings Express Yourself!