Up The Smoke yesterday. Streets of Pimlico quiet in the July sunshine. Baskets of flowers hanging from lamp posts. Covid has cleared the streets of the tourist hoards and office wallas but London has come to rely on them. So The White Swan on Vauxhall Bridge Road was closed.
Only a handful of art lovers in Tate Britain. The main hall given over to a work by Steve McQueen who “invited every Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers”. To my mind much “Conceptual Art” should remain just that: conceptual. The craft having been replaced by passionless manufacturing, the results too often disappoint. I can well understand riffing away with Mr. McQueen over a pint or a cup of tea and dreaming up the idea for this exhibit but let’s face it, the only people interested in looking at school group photos are the parents.
Obviously the marketing department scented an opportunity to irritate art lovers by flooding the halls with hundreds of screaming kids and they laid a trail around the halls to get the kids to “interact” but the teachers will not let the schools reopen and so these plans came to nought and the galleries were wonderfully free of brats. Odd how those who pass themselves off as intellectuals these days abhor populism in politics but embrace it for art. How can anyone criticise? “You monster, children are the future!” and teachers, of course, rank only second to NHS staff in the pantheon of British shadow royalty.
Parliament square was quiet too. A single protester advocating the banning of non-recyclable plastics (good idea!). While street battles continue in Oregon, the zeal of British youth seems to have evaporated for the holiday season. Along Whitehall the Cenotaph no longer needed protection though a gaggle of machine gun wielding police stood ready to defend two Household Cavalrymen with glittering breastplates. Trafalgar Square too was free of “cultural events” and a single street performer dressed as a giant Pokemon stood alone and ignored.
The offices around Soho were virtually empty but on Dean Street there were still men with man-buns in smart blue suits or “onesies”. It cannot be surprising that the media knew nothing of BREXIT ‘till it slapped them in the face since the media business is so concentrated in London. Diversity of ethnicity only matched by consistency of outlook.
Covid now justifies Al Fresco dining so roads were closed and restaurants spilled out onto the streets. The diners laughed and chatterred, seemingly unaware of the vast empty metropolis around them. Their businesses now running on momentum alone. The looming recession, the flight from the cities, the property price crash, the collapse of business, the unemployment. All this lies in the future and right now it’s possible to think that nothing has changed. Something will turn up. Wont it?
I helped, a friend load his business into a van. Twenty years in Dean Street, the end of an era. We did a quick clean up, vacated the building and headed for the excellent Angel pub on St. Giles High Street. Spacious, comfortable, gorgeous raspberry beer and plenty of room at the bar. I like this new covid London.