Sunday, August 9, 2009

Modern Girls, Modern Boys; It's Tremendous!*

More of a checking-in than a proper post, brought about by a brief return to London to attend my brother's wedding, a splendid affair not even ruined by my reading of a Norman MacCaig poem, that ended up in the venue pictured above, the wonderful Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley. This fabulous ex-cinema (formerly the Crofton Park Picture Palace) was converted to a dance hall in 1957 and has one of the most beautiful interiors I've ever been in: plush red velvet, gold leaf ceiling, Chinese lanterns, a neon-deco facade and jive dancing. Not even the fact that Oasis played there has dulled its unabashedly vulgar glamour.

I flew in to City airport the night before. This has the most thrilling approach of any airport I've flown to (save perhaps for the now defunct Templehof in Berlin where the plane seemed to take the tiles off the apartment blocks on the way down) made even more impressive on this occasion by the steep ascent the plane had to take when another plane stopped on the runway in front of it. The following 360 degree swoop over the Thames afforded a sublime view that took in the mouth of the estuary, the Queen Elizabeth 11 Dartford Crossing, Tilbury Docks, the Isle of Dogs and the Millennium dome simmering hazily in the distance.

A few years ago when I was teaching at Greenwich University I set a project that involved taking a boat trip from Greenwich to Gravesend. I've been fascinated by that stretch of the river ever since with its vast container ships and mysterious sheds lurking on the edge of the marshland. It's a landscape captured by Jock Macfadyen in paintings like Pink Flats (below) and slated to disappear under the Thames Gateway development.

The trip was a mirror image of a second boat journey from Reading to Henley, a stretch of the river with a completely different mythology that takes in Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat and a kind of English surrealist whimsy culminating for me in Mike (Archigram) Webb's bizarre Temple Island project. This fantasy project starts off as a series of doctored photographs of the Henley Regatta and mutates into the design of a strange, mutant submersible that travels up the Thames to Temple Island and the small Doric temple that sits on it.

Webb's project evokes the English picturesque and Sunday watercolourist's sensibility combined with something odder and more psychedelic. It's certainly one of the strangest projects ever to come out of the Archigram group, up there with David Greene's experimental Bottery and Webb's own Dreams Come True Inc. Like them, the Temple Island project took Archigram's twin loves of technology and English pastoralism but minus the boy scout positivism, replacing it with an altogether darker, more satirical sensibility.

I'll end this scattergun posting with a few links. There has been a series of superb posts over at Sit Down Man, including, especially, this one on Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and a sustained and angry rant on Southampton. Also good is The Sesquipedalist on why he twitters, which I have to say captures my ambivalent self-loathing on that topic spookily well. He also has a photo post on Sheffield's wonderful Castle Market, recently written up by Owen at Nothing to See Here (see links opposite).

I had my lunch at Sharon's cafe (ham, egg and chips since you ask) recently prior to a planning meeting for our Sheffield housing scheme. I can recommend it for all sorts of reasons, not least for its super compacted multi-programmed spatial qualities (Castle Market that is, not Sharon's ham, egg and chips) and the nicely expressed futurist style exhaust funnel that sticks out the top (ditto).

(photo courtesy of Mr Parnell)

I'm off to Bottany Bay, amongst other places, for the next week so will hopefully return with the blogger's de rigueur holiday post, as well as some other more edifying thoughts.

* BTW, the post title is a quote from Gregory's Girl which captures the film's decidedly modern optimism. I watched this the other day as part of a mini Scottish culture festival I have going on in my house which also includes listening to Stuart Murdoch's God Help The Girl ("Old episodes of Minder, I snuggled up beside her") and reading Simon Reynold's interview with a suprisingly call a spade a spade-ish Edwyn Collins in Totally Wired: Post Punk Interviews and Overviews.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sharon's cafe doesn't sell chips...but the chicks are good ;)