DID IT FEEL GOOD?

Last night to the premiere of the new Richard Curtis feel-good, comedy 'The Boat that Rocked" in Leicester Square. Now I've never been to a red carpet affair before so I found it quite interesting - with Sixties Go Go dancers, popping flashbulbs and all that - and it was absolutely rammed with English Actors and celebrities - apparently. Unfortunately due to a combinations of factors - not having a TV, not reading the papers and being short sighted - I rarely recognise anyone and I embarrassed myself by mistaking Paul McCartney's new girlfriend for Carlo Bruni. My eyesight is good enough however to notice that Kenneth Brannagh is rather short.

I am not alone in this deficiency. Sipping yet another non alcoholic drink, I had become aware of the interested gaze of a young chap for sometime before he came over, introduced himself and engaged me in a conversation which implied a familiarity with me and my work. I managed a small period of self delusion before we both realised that he had mistaken me for one of the cast and he hurried off. I was left alone rather hoping he wasn't thinking of Rhys Ifans before changing my mind and hoping that he WAS thinking of Rhys Ifans - as the only plausible (ie blondish) alternatives being Philip Seymour Hoffman or, ahem, Bill Nighy.

It's probably the longest comedy I have seen - almost two and a half hours - and so full of feel good moments that I'm afraid to say I began to feel rather bad. Some funny things but I left with a rather confused feeling of really not knowing what to make of it. N. said to me "That's because you're not the target audience." Do let me know if you are the target audience, what that means and what you think of it.

THE WALK OF LOVE

To Kings College to chaperone Mr Duncan through a drug comedown after his operation. Now Camberwell is a district I know not at all but I was very pleased to discover this little street:
My phone rang and it was Toynbee Studios. Just when I had resigned myself to either having to purchase a new velocipede or to undertake future journeys on foot, I was delighted to learn they had discovered my stolen bicycle in some bushes near the theatre. True the delight was somewhat mitigated by the reflection that the bike was so uncool that the person who stole it couldn't be bothered keeping it, but it saved me the painful process of having to make a decision about a new one.

Did The Walk of Love home and vowed to reconsider my newly learned dislike of Shoreditch.

LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE CITY


One of the nicest, although slightly embarrassing, things about tourists (and about being a tourist) is the eagerness and ready wonder found in the experience of a new city. You see this in London all the time and of course you experience it yourself when abroad. It never quite extends with me to say wanting to actually buy the cd of that South American busker playing delay-pedalled pan pipes to a synthesised backing tape, but it does engender a remarkably childlike enthusiasm for sites and sounds which may well be seen and not noticed at home or to which the locals have long become blunted by over familiarity and repetition. "Sure, but you can't eat the view" as a denizen of Rome said to me once when I complimented him on living in one of the world's most beautiful cities.

I generally like the open mouthed bonhomie and genuinely innocent pleasure of the newly arrived, but there are whole stretches of London where I now feel reluctant to venture: Covent Garden, the South Bank and so on - only because they are so touristed - and yet when I do visit or should stumble there out of hours, of course I see, or re-see, the attraction.
There are other areas of the city which I feel less inclined to visit for different and possibly 'psycho-geographic' reasons. The flatlands of Battersea for instance make me feel slightly gloomy and those of Fulham rather irritable (although that may be the preponderance of B list bankers secretly longing to live in Notting Hill) and I have never been keen on the Edgware Road.

But, for world weary citizens of this and probably any other city, it has often struck me that London is most intensely experienced or re-experienced when one is a recently arrived visitor from the State of Love - whether it be in the intoxication of love's beginning or in the heartbreak of its end. Familiar sites that are taken for granted by all but geographical tourists suddenly become re-suffused with meaning. The concrete and stone ooze significance, soulfulness and the pleasure of anticipation or the poignancy of memory. Particular corners, tube stations, a bench here, a cafe there interlace in a network of symbolic association and emotion that reveals the soul beneath and between the streets and squares. This of course is the city as walked or imagined in the company of another person - whether they be with us in our past, present or future, in actuality or in our imagination or memory

If you are not in such a state, for better or for worse, then the process of intentional discovery seems to help keep things alive - a process I see as a kind of creation of a personal city. Apart from wandering around and finding new places, a favourite pastime of mine has been beach-combing on the foreshore of the Thames at low tide. This is an ancient practice formerly known as 'Mudlarking' when carried out professionally by a particular caste of London's poor. With less pressing reason, we have found many amazing things there - seventeenth century clay pipes, Georgian belt buckles, a Roman coin, an Iron age arrow head, fragments of lovely blue ceramic, and, the other week, an i pod. Today, in one of the lesser known stretches I found a child's bicycle from the sixties. How did it come there - and when? Why has it emerged from the mud just now? Where is its young owner these days? Did he or she weep to see it fall?

On the morning after an evening in Shoreditch (now, crossed off my list of places to like) when my own bike was stolen, this discovery presented a synchronistic reminder of the, ahem, cyclical nature of the urban environment - particularly as last night's crime occourred as we sat watching a performance by Paper Cinema involving projected images of the city, dreaming and bicycling.

These lost cycles remind me that as well as defining one's own London, it seems like an important thing too to mourn and mark the passing of loved things here. Sure, the city has always been in flux but if we don't notice - or don't care as it changes - then what does that say about our relationship with it? This year the amazing, unique Shunt vaults under London Bridge will be smashed to bits and a piece of Borough Market will get chewed up so that a priapic glass tower can be raised above. (London really needs more open plan office space for financial institutions at the moment right?). I noticed the other day that the funny little Battersea Barge where we used to play peculiar shows and where we had an amazing midsummer's party a few years back has quietly and mysteriously vanished - victim no doubt to the encroaching strip of ticky-tacky apartment buildings marching west up the southern river bank. I am sure the people who do these things really don't love the city - or if they do it's in the way of a one night stand rather than a passionate ongoing affair.

But, like all love affairs, even if you do love London, it is a romance that will end someday. Even if it should survive and flourish despite the over familiarity and the stresses and fights and the ongoing habitual routines, in the end you will eventually perhaps just grow weary and move away or, if not that, you will certainly die. Oh and that reminds me: up until the 1940s there was a dedicated rail service and train line from Waterloo to Brooklands cemetery in Surrey run by 'The Necropolis Railway Company' upon which the carefully casketed citizen could gracefully embark upon their final journey accompanied for a little while by their mourners.

What a lovely way to leave.

WALTZ FOR ONE

Eva Vives a Spanish film writer and director made this film in Manhattan with our friend Aurelia Thierree last year (or perhaps the one before). It has rarely been seen but was shown prior to The Real Tuesday Weld performance at the National Film Theatre last week and several people asked about it. It is intended as a section from a longer narrative set to a track which was not released in the UK.
video
Aurelia is the the protagonist, subject and main performer of the wonderful 'Aurelia's Oratario' - probably one of the most magical and mysterious shows I have ever seen.