Bomb Damage Maps – A West London Digression . . .

 

and very personal appreciation of a poem sequence which in an ideal world, would become an instant classic.

To me, perhaps the best form of art – in any medium – is that which stimulates an escalating kaleidoscope inside the mind and heart; is that which lives in eternity’s sunrise[i]; is that which encourages a disregarding or surmounting of art’s limitations; is that which inspires the viewer to look inside and beyond themselves.

“I bought the book because of memory / not because of art,” runs the opening of the fifth poem in Bomb Damage Maps: ‘Catalogue’, and although Rupert Loydell’s attitude to life is perhaps less ecstatic than my own, this gets the priorities right. Rather than try to control the way in which it is interpreted, the best art (to repeat myself for emphasis) stimulates a way to think and feel, creating a heightened state in which the ‘audience’ enriches what they see or hear, expanding upon it through their own experience. They make it live[ii].

For my old painting (above) from February 1981[iii],  I make no exaggerated claims. It’s only here to illustrate the subjectivity of interpretation. To me it was set in an isolated part of rural North Devon and tried to capture a ‘splitting point’ as I called them at the time – precursor of the ‘chronological time dissolve’[iv]. At splitting points, everyday time and place faded. However, to the couple who bought the painting some 5 or 6 years later, enthusiastic about its “air of transcendence”, it was an industrial landscape!

However much I may have cringed inside, I was prepared to accept that what it might mean to them – whatever personal associations made it live – might be quite different to my own. Not that I want to be relativist[v] about this. Some artworks are rich, others dismally poor and many opinions are just wrong – not least the racism and right-wing politics attacked directly or by implication at various points during Bomb Damage Maps. If ‘The Lore of the Land’, first poem in the sequence, perfectly embodies my ideal kaleidoscope, others operate differently. But their combined effect – with a shifting desire to inform, convince or question that is melancholic, circling, observational – albeit deeply committed, is never prescriptive. Nor does the sequence ever riddle obscurely.

Maida Vale, 5thLondon Walk, 30th Sept 1997. On the way via Elgin Avenue and Westbourne Park, to the Westway terrain of Bomb Damage Maps.

As business trolls are supposed to ‘declare an interest’ in financial deals, I should make it clear from the start, that Rupert Loydell has been a good and reliable friend of mine for 33 years. Exactly when we first met in Exeter in the late 80s, is something we’ve argued about – he claiming to still be in Crewe at one date I asserted – but while we remained in or near that West Country city, we frequently met in person. Regrettably, for the last twenty years, living at opposite ends of the country, our contact has been largely restricted to letters. Despite this friendship, we’ve always been able to be harsh about each other’s work, even rude: this appreciation will not be hagiographic. In fact, from this point on, I will refer to him as Mr Loydell or perhaps just Loydell?

 

Chiswick Park, almost the epicentre of my personal West London. Revisited on a glum September day in 1996

When first asked for comments on the draft version of Bomb Damage Maps a year ago, I was immediately aware of its potential, and became euphorically enthusiastic – a temperamental trait many people could do without . . . and who can blame them? Who wants a galloping horse as a meditative sounding board?

Stonehill Road, beside the flyover, 1964. Playing with the boy next door, (who points to the camera). Tragically, a few weeks after these photos were taken, he was reversed over by an ice cream van.

 

One of the more flagrant overlaps I seized upon, connected ‘Westway’ with some downcast backstreets of Florence which, with K and the two youngest of our children, I’d recently experienced[vi] on our shoestring travels. My next notes in response to ‘The Lore of the Land’, were slightly more to the point. “Got a vivid picture of deserted streets at midday. Through acres of traffic noise all around. . . turning into Stonehill Road under the flyover, a sudden silence. Looked up the street. Previously thought it’d been gentrified – must’ve got the wrong Stonehill Road – should’ve guessed that was unlikely under the flyover. Instead, modern blocks on one side only, replace the demolished 3-storied Victorian (?) houses owned by Brentford and Chiswick council we shared with my grandparents. When my mum put bread out on a lower piece of roof for the birds, the rats used to scuttle out and pinch it.”

 

A 1954 map shows the original non-elevated Westway. The street known appealingly as The Curve, just below dead centre (west of the striking White City Estate, built 1937-1953[vii]), sounds futuristic – even a hopeful projection of future history. Composed of fairly standard council houses, it still exists.

 

So far, the horse was only trotting, then it really got going, albeit in fragments: “A mild dystopia / A memory of Passport to Pimlico[viii] / Professor Quatermass called to another pit[ix] / Thatcherite Britain of the 1980s . . . the kaleidoscope of Bomb Damage Maps begins here! Everything is ambiguous yet poignant, specific to each reader, yet radiantly universal. Not only West London, but not even the urban is utterly insisted upon. The writer might have had specific feelings and ideas in mind when writing and later re-reading them, likely they will recur, but in no way do we have to share them. We are free to make our own, to complete what remains enigmatic yet endlessly stimulating. His map will inevitably be damaged by our own personal bombs – their devastation or flowerings of memory and imagination. But that does not matter since “fragments remain fragments, even if one attempts to re-organise them. The unity to which they belong lies beyond them; it is grasped through hope but not face-to-face”[x].

Acton Town, late 1940s (From Designed for London by Oliver Green and Jeremy Rewse-Davies, 1995)

 

In the face of this accelerating gallop, Loydell remained calm. Part of the reason for his asking me to comment may have been the shared heritage we discovered we held in common back at the end of the 1980s. That we came from approximately the same region of London. That both our dads went to Acton Technical college at about the same time, (mine frequently recalling the morning cycle up Bollo Lane). That we both feel connected in some crucial way – to phrase it in the sort of over-the-top language Loydell generally dislikes – to this joint crucible!

Embarrassed by praise, Loydell often appears keen to disclaim credit for his best endeavours – as if his poems were composed by a conference of voices or formed of fictions with only the faintest (if any) personal connection. At the risk of his ire, I might dare to suggest that he’s been so good at diminishing even the slightest ‘cult of personality’ surrounding his work, that anything extraordinary he does produce (as an artist as well as a writer, in both fields he is fairly prolific) can take even his friends and admirers by surprise. He has deferred to the semi-random, depersonalized, process idea so effectively, that when his best efforts escape his craft – as in my view, all the best art in any medium must – it can be truly startling. For, whatever colleges or teachers may prefer to believe, skill or craft are never enough alone; in fact, the most skillful craft in the pure as distinct from the applied arts, is often worse than nothing, it is a distraction.

In my wildest dreams “to uprise and take back control” (‘The Lore of the Land’) seemed a possibility before the advent of pandemic panic. Loss leader of delayed lockdown, the Government’s hidden snicker, put a temporary lid on it. But could Extinction Rebellion still have the last laugh? Not that there’s much time for laughing. But it’s easy to retreat into the blessing of apathy. “Tories / out said the wall” – and anyone with any sense must surely say: let’s make them go!

A literal record of splintering bomb damage from the Air Ministry book Bomber Command (1941)

 

The consciously metaphysical, perhaps even a kaleidoscopic splintering of the metaphorical, whatever he may privately think, is something Loydell might hesitate to admit to? My more literal recent mention of Passport to Pimlico, (1949), “actually filmed across the river in Lambeth, as I’m sure you know, so hardly West London, but . . .” was resisted with the reminder that Bomb Damage Maps “isn’t actually about bomb damage, it’s about Westway” or rather “more the damage done by building Westway”. I was going to ask if he meant literal or sociological – but imagined he would answer “both”.


Me at Stonehill Road in 1963 – about to throw bread to the rats?

 

The entire sequence can’t help but be about memory and the sense of where we came from; about apocryphal fears and compound ghosts. Despite a scattering of specific locations, it needn’t be narrowed to West London, but could have squadrons of equivalents, real or imaginary. Over the asphalt where no other sound was / Between three districts where the smoke arose[xi] . . .  For although the talisman or spell of certain names, their mental touchstone or implied essence, may make it operate more immediately for those who know, knew, or think they knew the area, Bomb Damage Maps retains the keys to something else. It remains involved yet partially askance, “and all the surveillance cameras are bust.” This damage is an inevitable inheritance few can escape: that sense of communities passed, a historical perspective, an endangered society with the tiller gone . . .

To believe that an appreciation of Bomb Damage Maps is dependent upon a knowledge of West London would be a gross mistake. I may never feel a tourist there, but my sense of belonging, of being part of its very blood, is very much an act of will and imagination[xii]. I know London has moved on, is partly unrecognisable, is missing all the people I knew, is too large in my mind to be explained by any reality . . .  My London Feeling or London Atmosphere[xiii] was and remains an untraceable nostalgia, or even a presentiment of a future history – one not selected, as history generally is, in favour of toffs and bullies.

But though, for the sake of social justice, we have to pretend that places exist objectively, in truth, aren’t especially those which deeply affect us, created subjectively by each one of us alone, wrought from a multitude of levels and perspectives? Loydell’s perception of West London is bound to be different to mine and likely less mythologised – simply because he lived there so much longer.

 Condemned as “unfit for human habitation”, we left our house, hard by the flyover, in 1966 when I was 4. Obtaining a transfer to Eastern Electricity Board’s Aylesbury branch, my dad was assigned a new council house, floating in fields[xiv] to the east of a then relatively quiet market town. Bad or good depending on your point of view – rootless, uprooted or free – I became a member of the estate island generation. From Aylesbury I was able to wander over fields to barely changed villages. I left my road-divided community too young to consciously notice that I’d gone, and only had aging relatives as ancestral monuments to a vanishing time. Before long, they too had shifted, though only two miles south across the river to a council flat on the borders between Kew and Mortlake.

The second poem in Bomb Damage Maps, ‘Topographies’,  feels light and airy and acts as an interlude, a retreat into the mind or imagination and although the poem implies this predominantly as playful escapism or perhaps whimsical obsession, I prefer to will the kinder impression, remembering my habit as a teenager of buying up all the old OS maps withdrawn from Aylesbury library to avoid homework and go travelling in the evenings . . .

A second analysis of literal bomb damage from the Air Ministry book, Bomber Command (1941)

 

If I can’t help but take bomb damage literally as well, it’s partly because my dad filled my head with stories of playing on bombsites, stories reinforced by a hundred films from Hue & Cry (1947)[xv] to Melody[xvi] made in 1971, but still able to use as occasional locations, waste ground left from bombsites. In Passport to Pimlico this damage is at the epicentre of the film, unlike my memories and reconstructions of West London, which in a kind of aerial plotting, reverse the process in which all the gaps between villages and commons were infilled with factories and housing to form the city we came to know. Moving on in time, the random bomb damage – literal, metaphorical, sociological – divided them again, arbitrarily. Circling the area from Maida Vale right out to Teddington Lock, I cannot ever find a real home to alight, unless it be, Kew Gardens, Gunnersbury Park or Strand-on-the-Green – all quasi-rural places or riverside rests where the glittering of water fills in the blanks.

Kew Gardens – where my dad worked for a time in the 50s. (from The Third Country Life Picture Book of London, 1956. Photographer: G.F.Allen)

 

This idea of circling, of homing in, like that of a pigeon either memorizing for some possible return or orientating before heading away on some vanishing bearing – has another personal resonance, because my mum’s best friend Tess, who helped looked after me when my sister was born prematurely, kept doves. My violent accusation: “YOU’RE NOT MY MUM” still makes her laugh over half a century later.

 One of Tess’s doves, 1960s

 

Circling again, I might visualise all of my dad’s favourite cinemas[xvii], many now gone, places he went with his mum – who once claimed, between verses of a song (she was old by then and often remembered her early days in the Salvation Army and confused me with my dad) – that she wasn’t frightened much during the wartime raids, because she’d have known if a bomb had her name on it – this, despite that her sister was killed by a V1[xviii] in 1944.

One of the quasi-rural or riverside places which mark the West London perimeter of Bomb Damage Maps. Strand-on-the-Green, revisited, Oct 1996: where my parents fantasized about living in the 60s, and District and North London line trains gave a brief glimpse of the Thames through the lattices.

 

By contrast, Loydell’s connection with London was less confined to history, he wouldn’t have needed to circle to get his bearings. Having motorbiked widely and “spent much of the late 70s” at the Rolling Thunder skate park[xix] – across from where our demolished Stonehill Road council house once stood – he knew the area thoroughly and didn’t finally leave until 1982.

Barring desultory flickings in Travelodges, I haven’t watched TV for over 20 years, and have neither credit card nor mobile phone. Just as I’ve lost my taproot to West London, does this deliberate disconnection from contemporary society, disenfranchise or free me from the wider world? Have I become like the woman in ‘Topograhies’? In hours of insomnia such thoughts go around and around. Every different angle of the body I would sooner leave, bringing out different irritations.

                                                Will walk nine

            times round the open fire, then lay

            my head on the turf.

 

 

Wandering in cities such as Glasgow, Cadiz, Leeds, Genova or Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lille and Oslo (over 40 years, none of them flown to) using temporary scraps, hints of maps or routes crudely drawn out, jotted on anything to hand . . . each way is right no matter how wrong. If the fool shall only persist in his rambling folly . . .   It’s wonderful to develop the quality/illusion of never being a tourist (the deliberate lack of technology helps), of belonging everywhere (everywhere outside at least – interiors are a different matter). Or is this a too wraith-like observation? A daytime insomnia, a circling pigeon in disguise, minus the feathers, minus even the wings or separated eyes?

Sudbury Town – on that glum 26th of September in 1996

 

Briefly enamoured with the idea of looking at Bomb Damage Maps in terms of symphonic movements, I soon realised it wouldn’t obey such structures. For one thing six movements was the maximum I could find any symphony possessed (Fazıl Say’s Universe Symphony – with music suggested by scientific information). In the spirit of digression, I did come across the Latin Music Mood Database[xx] with its “analysis of mood distribution”. “Reminiscent of the emotional plane provided by the Affective Circumference Model of Watson and Telegen”, this was fascinating but way off the point.

To me ‘Westway’ and ‘High Rise’ are the obvious central movements of Bomb Damage Maps – rhythmically terse, angry and political. Laced with irony and pathos they leave behind vivid images of despair and resignation: of tinderbox eyes and a grim skyline”; of “our relentless desire / to classify, label and burn know.”

 

Circling higher: The Acton Isolation Hospital at Wales Farm Road, top left, closed in 1983. Though suffering from TB during National Service this was not where my dad was confined. Meanwhile the impressive Ministry of Pensions building[xxi], in Bromyard Avenue, under the map’s words EAST ACTON, appears to have been converted now to residential use – not that I ever believed I’d get a pension.

 

I wasn’t sure regarding photos of this map[xxii], whether to use those which included the worn lines caused by folds. The damage of these folds being not unlike the often apparently arbitrary lines drawn through cities by planners . . . whose roads and other schemes often inescapably split communities, dividing a settled terrain into new sectors to leave permanent scars – as Loydell notes of the remnants of houses “beside the concrete” at the beginning of ‘Westway’. Scars accompanied by the plaintive “dripping question”: “Where is your god now?”  

Instead, I chose this clearer view showing Westway as plotted in 1954 before, between 1962 and 1970, it was rebuilt and incorporated into the elevated A40. The Grenfell Tower[xxiii], (location of the disastrous fire of June 2017[xxiv] and preeminent subject of ‘High Rise’), would come to be sited just to the northeast of the red rectangle denoting Latimer Road station.

To the north is the green area, Wormwood Scrubs, from which the famous prison takes its name. Although the name originally derived from Wormholt Scrubs and indicated a snake-infested woodland[xxv], it’s impossible to entirely dismiss the biblical overtones of Wormwood[xxvi]. To quote from the given link: “A number of Bible scholars consider the term Wormwood to be a purely symbolic representation of the bitterness that will fill the earth during troubled times.” This sense of troubled times – angrily present or faded to myth and nostalgic regret – infuses Bomb Damage Maps. Meanwhile, in Ukrainian the word for wormwood is . . . Chernobyl[xxvii] and in some obscure way, parts of ‘A Windscreen on to the World’, connect with the spirit of nuclear folly – its leap from the balcony. A short film I saw a few nights back: Atomic Achievement[xxviii] from 1956, was beautiful to look at, yet painful or laughable to watch. To remember that poisonous naivety and our misplaced hopes. Viewing this film about atomic scientists and their irradiated minions, is like watching toddlers play with broken glass.

Can my dad throw me high enough to see the lorries on the Chiswick flyover?    Stonehill Road, 1963

 

Children too, the sense of children or of lost childhoods, disrupted childhoods, runs through the urban landscapes and mindscapes of Bomb Damage Maps. Through “the lingering smell of fire”, the imprints or scars of flattened buildings. For although for I never quite grew up here, until yesterday I thought I was born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, between Westway and Wormwood Scrubs[xxix] – so it was no surprise to me that back last year, far too nonchalantly for Loydell’s liking, I’d blurred the Chiswick flyover[xxx] into Westway[xxxi]. I had the wrong elevated road altogether! Yet whatever destructive capabilities both roads had[xxxii], wrecking communities on behalf of motorists, it’s clear that the Westway has become a cultural signifier of note – with so many references made to it by bigwigs who apart from a swift or stalling traverse of its aerial pillars, likely never came closer than an album cover. Which does not matter, since universalization in aid of a chronological time-dissolve, is always valuable. A section of flyover in Cardiff, Sheffield or Glasgow might lead to the same ellipsis. A motorway slip road in Somerset might set me off.

1996 Ealing Village flats about which my dad noted while rolling a fag: “impossible to see the bloody meters”.  3rd London Walk, 26th Sept 1996.

 

My dad’s job for the Electricity Board through the late 50s and into the early 60s involved reading meters[xxxiii] all across his West London territory. He found that if he walked fast enough, five days of paid work could be covered in three, giving him four other days for drawing and painting. 

“Read ALL the meters around here!” was one of his most common phrases, as sometimes, one hand on the wheel, he perilously indicated swathes of Hanger Lane, Acton or Hammersmith, while driving to see our grandparents. From the train the pastime was safer. And all those names still ring: Perivale, Boston Manor, Goldhawk Road . . . an incantation. The drumming of tube trains across the embankment of memory . . .

Brick Farm Close, gone upmarket by the time of this photo in October 1996. This is where Nan and Grandad lived from 1966 to 1980 and where my sister and I stayed with them and Great Aunt May for a few memorable days up to a week most summer holidays until the mid-70s.

 

Especially evocative too are the stations on the District Line out to the nearest platform to my nan and grandad, whose flat was only a mile’s walk from the more salubrious Kew Gardens. And I still remember the big, worn, old pennies needed to get into that paradise, with the mysterious pagoda in its clearing and the gigantic landed zeppelin of its palm house. Still I can feel and hear the clonk of the ancient and sun-shining turnstiles from visionary Kew Green or the stately gap in the wall of Victoria Gate – shortest route from nan’s at the end of Lichfield Road. Still, I retain a dream-like, motion picture glide-path sequence of green and gardens, streets and allotments, the brief silver of the Thames from the latticed girders above Strand-on-the-Green, the hum of the rubber-edged sliding doors closing upon Ravenscourt Park, Stamford Brook, Turnham Green[xxxiv], and Gunnersbury, in its defile between car parks. Gunnersbury – closest station at one time to our house under the flyover.

It’s that glum September the 26th 1996 again. What a shame we didn’t have more sun for our exploration of Charles Holden’s striking station designs – here Sudbury Town on the Piccadilly line 

 

Because the nearest I get to doing tourist things in cities, is to observe the tourists and the impact of tourism, visits to them can be disheartening. Yet avoiding the religious buildings, the cafes, galleries and museums, to explore instead the ‘unknown’ areas of cities, often reveals the depressing way that so many people have to live in them. Bomb Damage Maps only mentions “misery tourism”, but could this expanding category[xxxv] eventually trap every external wanderer or flâneur, in its diagram?

The partly defeated realism and humour of ‘Westway’, (“follow the yellow signs until / they stop and you is lost.”an echo of reggae underlining the concise synaesthesia of this verse), is burnt alive by the supressed anger of ‘High Rise’, reflecting the failure of any socially conscious objectivity:

            Each person’s narrative is still

            their own, but they own nothing

            else,

 

and:                             you we are doing

            almost nothing.

 

 

Bomb Damage Maps is such a kaleidoscopic text that the state of mind it may induce is bound to produce interpretations the poet would dispute. “The future requires substantial demolition, / but there will be no compensation” for example, probably wasn’t intended as a reference to global warming but can certainly be taken that way. One of the most intriguing alterations from Loydell’s draft of June 2019, is the opening line of ‘Underneath’: which now runs: “At the end of things, death of course,” rather than the lighter-hearted: “At the end of things, beer of course,” a change I’m glad for having in my head.

Teddington Lock seriously overshoots the terrain of Bomb Damage Maps and rather than wartime rubble, squalor and post-war road building, is more likely to invoke vicarage tea parties or the absurd but nevertheless powerful Hollywood fantasy of Mrs Miniver (1944). Despite which, my dad and I had a perfect pint of beer there on our 8th London Walk of 1999

 

Even deducting all the notable painting, literature and music, elegiacally wistful or blasted out from the First World War, that nightmare of suffering and nihilistic waste would forever be enshrined by sheer horrific statistics alone. By contrast, in a hundred years, New York’s Ground Zero will have diminished in collective memory, while if anyone remembers Grenfell Tower at all, it will primarily be due to the striking images of a vast rogue guttering candle at twilight. Against the class implications of this likely amnesia, ‘High Rise’ in its low-key, unassuming way, solemnizes the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower – as We Are Making a New World[xxxvi]and Dulce et Decorum Est[xxxvii] still bitterly define trench warfare.

“It’s a fiction, a poem!” Loydell stressed in an email, as if concerned what the galloping horse or high-pressure locomotive might pin on him; embarrassed by my likely conclusion, that the conference of voices is only a self-effacing form of inspiration – a word Loydell disdains . . . along with the Muses! He won’t thank me for reasserting the semi-Romantic myth that the best art always exceeds what any artist in any medium can intend, its unexpected flight carrying on where even their better selves leave off. With layered foresight, the escaping characters and ideas of fictions, the tonal projections of music and paintings, do what in a sense, no-one can ever do in ‘real life’. The separated artist becomes activist, the misanthrope an optimist, the defeated, resolute. 

 

                                All want us to go home. 

                We shan’t. Will stand all night until 

                time comes to the rescue, have no 

                other home but here. Will walk nine 

                times round the open fire, then lay 

                my head on the turf. There are both 

                women and men among us, we are 

                a living company and will be here

                as long as it takes us to die.

 

Though the thought might make him laugh, these defiant and stoical ending lines from ‘Underneath’, the last poem in Bomb Damage Maps – and partly, at least in my view, about the plight of immigrants – is reminiscent in our complicated, messy time, of lines 312-319 of the Anglo-Saxon poem from 919 The Battle of Maldon[xxxviii]

Photo from Underground Architecture by David Lawrence, London Transport Museum, 1994)

 

But what of the entrenched subjectivity of my own memories of London: subconscious, frequently renewed, possibly embroidered? Perhaps the old travelling nocturnes are what most stick in my mind now. Whether at the very beginning of the west, off Battersea bridge onto Cheyne walk, past the houseboats that were such a fixture in films of 50s and 60s bohemia. Or the Western Avenue extension, with its stubbed lampposts at Northolt[xxxix]. Or the more direct way back from my nan and grandad’s flat, over Kew bridge and past the illuminations of Gillett’s on the Great West Road, counting the Christmas trees, the still centre of Osterley station entrance below its beckoning tower. All the ways home. Leaving home for home. Our exile beyond Metroland. A divided history . . .

Osterley, 1970s (from the cover of Architectural Design magazine, Profile 24. Britain in the Thirties).

 

Unlike the business trolls mentioned at the beginning, no bribes or money were necessary for me to offer this appreciation, it’s been easy to sustain through pure enthusiasm – both for the poem sequence itself and for the kaleidoscopic Aladdin’s Cave of memory and chronological time-dissolve it engendered.

Any impressions noted here are only the tip of an iceberg felt, and that itself is only another tip of what’s there to discover: I urge you to read Bomb Damage Maps.



Me and mum in Gunnersbury Park, 1964

 

 

Bomb Damage Maps is available from:  http://www.theredceilingspress.co.uk/

 

© Lawrence Freiesleben

Cumbria, June 2020

 

lwf@hawkvalley.co.uk


 

NOTES

 

[i] https://poets.org/poem/eternity 

[ii] So much of the academic stuff we are often wearily forced to drudge through or admire in galleries, museums and libraries, is barely worth the effort to resuscitate, even if the occasional item justifies the search. Sadly, the same could be said of a large proportion of contemporary work – which never takes more than a few breaths in the first place.

[iii] The Bow, fifth and last in a loose series, Gouache & Ink, 49 x 74 cm 

[iv] Adapted from a recent letter: “I almost fell into restating the cliché of time going faster as you get older, and then realised that these kinds of distinctions are breaking down in me. Certain events could be ten years ago or yesterday (so much is fairly common I hope?). Rather than faster or slower, to me the whole process of time is becoming more integrated; present and past becoming simultaneous – not literally of course, but somewhere inside. I realise this can sound ridiculous but having spent so much of the last few days going through old photos, I’ve frequently had to pass the grief boundary. Perhaps many prefer to avoid such potential self-destruction – to avert their feelings or be immunised? Anyway, eventually this grief boundary and the ‘distance’ to times and places past, disappears. Going backwards and forwards over 50 years of photos, suddenly I felt like I’d escaped. All the most poignant photos just made me smile instead! And this wasn’t the tiredness of indifference. But what I’m trying to say is probably not (sensibly) expressible, so I’ll shut up about my whole sense of chronological time (and place) dissolve . . .”

[v] In a better world, relativism might be tolerable, in the one we have it’s as corrosive as bad art. It encourages the slide of materialism.

[vi] And soon translated into Axe the China http://internationaltimes.it/axe-the-china/ 

[vii] https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/the_white_city_estate_part_one/ 

[viii] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041737/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1  Greatest of the Ealing comedies in my opinion.

[ix] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062168/ 

[x] Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 1949 

[xi] Lines 84-85 from Little Gidding – though arguably, less successful sections of Four Quartets riddle obscurely and pontificate garrulously. But who am I to object! 

[xii] See: http://internationaltimes.it/exiles-from-london-an-extract-from-maze-end-2013/ 

[xiii] See the latter part of: http://internationaltimes.it/donnie-darko-a-digression-on-universality-and-inevitable-nostalgia/ 

[xiv] Once a withy growing area and prone to flooding. Later and posher estates were built around an artificial lake. 

[xv] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039478/ 

[xvi] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067418/ 

[xvii] Though he might forget the plots of films, he always remembers the cinemas where he first saw them. The Odeon, Globe, or the Granada in Acton, the Regal and the Classic in Hammersmith and the Broadway in Fulham. He also remembered this children’s Saturday morning pictures club song:

‘We come along on Saturday morning
‘Greeting everybody with a smile’
We come along on Saturday morning’
‘Knowing it is well worthwhile’
‘As members of the GB club we all intend to be’
Good citizens when we grow up and champions of the free’

[xviii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb 

[xix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Thunder_skate_park 

[xx] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13636-015-0065-6 

[xxi] See https://britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw010693 

[xxii] Bacon’s New Large Print Map of London and Suburbs, 1954.

[xxiii] A 24-storey high-rise tower block constructed between 1972 and 1974, (twenty years after this map was first published) Grenfell Tower clearly never had the wealthy residents of the symbolic tower in J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel. 

[xxiv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenfell_Tower_fire#Deaths The official figure of 72 deaths is still widely doubted – some residents groups reckoning the number far higher.

[xxv] Worm developing from ‘wyrm’, an ancient word for snake; holt, being another term for wood, and scrubs akin to rough, partly wooded, common land:  See https://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/wormwood-scrubs/

[xxvi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormwood_(Bible) 

[xxvii] https://www.nytimes.com/1986/07/26/world/the-talk-of-moscow-chernobyl-fallout-apocalyptic-tale-and-fear.html 

[xxviii] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1951to1964/filmpage_atomic.htm 

[xxix] It turns out that Queen Charlotte’s Hospital was shifted in 2000 from a site in Goldhawk Road – which my mum could have told me if she was still alive. 

[xxx] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiswick_flyover 

[xxxi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westway_(London) 

[xxxii] The British Road Federation called the Westway “one of the insensitive and socially unacceptable examples of motorways.” 

[xxxiii] He once read E.M. Forster’s meter (presumably at 9 Arlington Park Mansions off Turnham Green?) an interesting encounter he half developed into an anecdote but has never “quite finished” since at least 1982 when he started reading meters again in Bucks. 

[xxxiv] This section from page 18 of Maze End (2013), with its expression of future history, was based on Turnham Green station:

“It was surprising in the times that changed beyond the Garden boundary, how stable some aspects remained. In London for instance, until late into the 21st Century, though the river became harder to see behind embankments as the sea level rose and the weather became unstable, the unification of public transport first put forth so distinctively in the 1930’s, still held good against all kinds of modernising clutter and defences. Some suburban stations maintained practically the same atmosphere, especially if they were near a common, heath or old village green – any preserved public area of land. Enhancing the crowded lives of people not so fortunate as their visitors, these dreaming grassy spaces from earlier times, were increasingly valued.”

[xxxv]  The Chernobyl disaster “is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history” (so far), yet the potential 9000 – 16,000 fatalities connected to it, haven’t prevented it becoming a popular holiday destination! :  https://www.sceniccartours.com/chernobyl/4594850465

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster 

[xxxvi] https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/we-are-making-a-new-world/DwHVm44w3XbHOA?hl=en-GB 

[xxxvii] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est 

[xxxviii] https://anglosaxonpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/battle-of-maldon/ A poem I might never have come across without Michael Wood’s inspirational programs of 1979-81: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_of_the_Dark_Ages  The Battle of Maldon features at 8 mins 33 on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGzDLpsoq5Y  with yet another translation of those “immortal lines” at about 11 mins 10. 

[xxxix] Cut down for aircraft landing at Northolt. For a short time after the war until London/Heathrow opened in May 1946, Northolt was the busiest airport in Europe.


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