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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Monday, 7 September 2015

Note to self: try not to get distracted by Christopher Wren next time

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich - the western wing of Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor's
masterpiece. A rather non-suburban setting for a festival of London's outer suburbs.
Like I said, one of the highlights of Saturday's Doughnut:The festival of Outer London was to have been Will Self "in conversation with" Hanif Kureshi.

The Buddha of south London suburbia meets the Bard of Stockwell - it was surely an unmissable event. And I went and missed it.

Actually got to Greenwich just too late to catch the earlier debate involving Patrick Wright, which should also have been a corker. But Self & Kureshi weren't on til 5pm so I  thought I'd come back later and see how things were going.

I decided to kill time by revisiting the Old Royal Naval College itself…..well, when I say revisiting I mean, I have always just walked past it on the way  to the Maritime Museum or the park and observatory up the hill.

This time, in the pearlescent light of a leaden August Saturday, Wren's stonework was impossibly, voluptuously, ravishing. I walked around all of the arches and colonnades, each time seeing another vista, and other set of extraordinary perspectives, of framings of unlikely things, such as Canary Wharf or a pulled-pork vendor's van.

This reminds me -- who can tell me, as a vegetarian, exactly what is this pulled pork? It sounds horribly like a teenage-boy euphemism for masturbation.

But it can't be - everywhere you go now they want you to buy some pulled meat product. Pulled by whom, from where to where? And for how long? And why would I want to eat it?

Anyway….Wren detained me. I found myself in the Painted Hall, basically a huge dining room with a painted ceiling about the size of tennis court. Apparently the artist, Sir James Thornhill,  was paid £3 a square yard for this, but only £1 a square yard for the easier bits on the walls. As the totally pained area is about 40,000 sq feet, or 4444 square yards, he ended up  earning more per year over 19 years than I do now, four hundred years and several thousand points of inflation later.

Which is why, when I got back to the Doughnut Festival and realised….that the talks were not…in fact…free…and I was already glutted with all that Wren stuff, and had tried to work out which colour pin I should stick in a map to explain exactly where on Ranmore Common I would choose to bivouac down for a while if I was on the run from H G Wells……

Well, you know, shameful as it is is to admit, I was tired, I had glimpsed the inviting domes of the foot tunnel, that was an experience I needed and it needed it then and there and before you could say claustrophobia I was in Island Gardens, and heading for the DLR.

The DLR you know is the best and cheapest funfair or them park big dipper ride in all th world.
Take the front seats (so long as the "Transit Agent "isn't around to dislodge you) and tighten your seat belts for a white-knuckle ride through 2000 years of economic, social, political, medical, and architectural history, with a lovely plunge into a ghostly tunnel right at the end.

So I checked the tweets when I got back and realised I had indeed missed a corker of a conversation. I feel stupid and guilty and this feeble posting is my confessional. I'm especially sad I missed the bit where Self characterised the outer suburbs as "the spatialisation of patriarchy".

This phrase is both deliciously Selfian - in that it is both wonderfully pretentious but also true. I immediately am cast back…to the age of what, four or five? It's probably a false memory, but it involves walking with my sister or my friends or both down to the nearest railway station each evening at about 6.30

pm and standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the platforms, waiting for our fathers to come back from their days in the City. When they appeared, one by one, there would be cries of "Daddy! daddy!"

Oh yes. Except of course on those days when your daddy was working late or taking one of his girlfriends to the opera or whatever.

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