Newark to Portland Bill

February 17, 2009

Vince Rea’s Dog
Vince Rea’s Dog (not lovely Sulivan, but the one in Jarrow Metro) has no connection with the decline of Britain whose nadir went un-noticed in the run down Regency villas, mews & side streets of Gloucester of the 1970’s. However for anyone who can visualise a realistic dog shape being formed with a welding torch & a faded group picture including Ellen Wilkinson minutes before setting off on the Jarrow March 1933, Vince Rea’s Dog* is not only emblematic of just how bad building was in the 1960s, but what was good & bad in public sculpture in the 1970’s. Before TV only readers of JB Priestley’s An English Journey or Fredric Engels’s The Condition of the English Working Classes could visualise how bad things were in England. Early TV interviews in Coventry for example show a shy downtrodden people trying to talk posh like the managers in Kenilworth & feared of saying anything which might force the attentions of policeman & detectives. When the country did not want Churchill anymore in about 1955, ordinary people, often almost without learning, culture, travel, education, breeding, cultivation & deportment supplanted pipe smoking worsted jacketed toffs from architecture, who like the Victorians & in the 1920s & 1930s had done very well & without anyone’s permission thank you very much in inventing, say a vernacular cottage type These, along with the yet to be invented planners ruined the country. Let loose on something they could never understand England became bricked over. Is it any wonder that whenever one is searching the internet whether by accident or design there is no information available on large chunks of history? ** The appropriate part of George Orwell’s 1984 must have been dead right. Beware of journalists though. It was them guarding their Monday morning prerogative of coming up with some newsworthy news that suffocated & strangled worthy & perhaps revolutionary information from college pamphlets. Why did we have to wait 50 years to find out from TV broadcasts from the Open University that Cromer was all about light, that the period was the Flanders one & the huge brown hills beyond are indeed one big glacial dump? Unequivocally, ‘Coast’ the TV series was a milestone in honouring the BBC brief of living up to the original charter of ‘Entertaining, Informing & Educating’ & after all what’s wrong with hearing people pronouncing things properly in a variety of standard accents? The OU did this by inventing the geographer journalist flourishing behind the colour camera & able to afford £1000 an hour helicopter flights. Would you want to go to Cromer now though where the out of season resort pier once was un-peopled, now crowded with Peckham Rye types dropping their ‘aches’ into the flooding sea? Alphaville The English city of the future. A pamphlet. Coventry has an inner ring road very near the centre, an original shopping centre by Sir Basil (Urwin) Spence & one of the finest new transport museums at the level of Berlin, Muenchen & Beaulieu. The canal leaves the very centre of the city and joins the network with reminders that families lived from the canal. Nottingham’s inner ring road is a lozenge dictated by the railway line & Gloucester has a network of carriageways which overwhelm the city. In the White Heat of Technology & in drawings by Le Corbusier. The car was not meant to be a noisy polluting nightmare child killer. Now the need to get into the mind of the drivers & turn the car round. In the North East of England they were all supposed to have jet packs & helicopters by 1990 which was once the future. Why was the pedestrian & cyclist so brutally & universally ignored? Commonly in the early 1960s local boys guarded their streets with violence & chasing from strange boys. A council estate boy could not be expected to carry around a Maynard Keynes type macro-economic view. He had the mindset of the scavaging itinerant tribal hunter gatherer whereas Lancing college had intercepted this, these were less ornamented, less well mannered than Oetztal man & would be less welcome at an Edwardian dinner party off the Holloway Road. These mindsets & physcograms, are deterministic & steer the success or otherwise of ideas about urbanism. Loosening their tribal shackles & instincts & set against each other by the influences of the spiritualty, stratified into workmen & fore men the seeds of their own destruction were sewn into communities & doomed them. A waterered down involuntary Protestantism, with a hint or whiff of chapel, aspiring families, protected by ‘blobs’, ‘residual income’, driven away by vermin & pleurisy would now be heading down past Houghton-le-Spring to Weston-Super-Mare in the Vander Plas. Factory owners spent the profits in Wallingford, Banstead & Norbury Junction not Jarrow, Hebburn & Felling. The creepy aspirations of the Bartram’s would mean they would unashamedly ‘join the masons’ rendering them unable speak to their catholic labouring neighbours, the die cast way of life was formed on Roman lines & every generation, as they say, has it’s slaves. Not co-operating with this scheme of things meant not having holidays, & sometimes real poverty. The Bartrams could not have existed in the Bronze Age. In times of war the fit would have grab a spear from the fence, leaving obviously a gap in the fence. Their son, an electrical engineer could not have pleaded having working for another tribe down south & that actually as Reyrolles was taken over by the General Electrical Company they were off to Alderney in a coral on a fishing trip. (Kayaks, boats & ships were the Ka of the Bronze Age). How far south would their snooty daughter have got if she had fallen out with the tribal warriors? Tarmac was way over the horizon & roman roads overgrown. Social Betterment The seriousness of this allegation against the Bartrams now may be ameliorated by the strong possibility that it may not have been their fault although this would be easily refuted by religious fanatics. Society had been forced to stratify not only but also by poor prospects, poor food, poor hygiene, damp, cockroaches, rats, disease & chronically poor housing (holding an umbrella over the baby). The Vanden Plas was a petrol driven four wheeled chariot on wings of desire out the hell of English industrial towns. Sickly as it may sound, as from Coventry to Kenilworth it was an escape to the idyllic rural setting for decent people who wanted to have a proper life & better themselves. But whist one or two went off to seek spirituality in the hills, more often it was reading the Daily Mail in the car park not getting out at all & leaving the engine on when it was cold. So why has this transformed into the petty game of being better off than the people next door? Southampton in the Life of a nation. And so to there: Southampton. The unfashionable city rarely or never gets a mention. The accent has classy Hampshire flavours from Twyford & Eastleigh & the country daftness associated with the west country. Yet Benny Hill* was from here, & due to the twin tides protected by the country within a country the Isle of Wight, King Canute almost certainly commanded the sea to retreat back just to the east on the Saxon Shore. The boats & ships could be floated in twice to the dry docks. The balding middle aged man from Coventry sitting next to J B Priestly in the back of a Scammel bus was speculatively heading for ‘opportunities’ in Southampton in the very front few pages of the book. Hill’s birthplace was described in full by J B Priestly when the uniqueness of English towns & cities was there to be seen. Only Mansfield, Hove & Lincoln and maybe Oxford and Cambridge today could be vaguely described as different. ( Maybe Ely but reader, how different is your town? Is there a big shark diving through your roof?) Retail devastated the English town & Zaha Hadid was not involved and nor was, in praise of a higher being, Wayne Hemmingway. Huge profits are made obviously remotely and the big buildings of the day are not Zeppelin Halls but Adidas distribution centres in places like Salford. The Arndale centre cannot be got rid of because of weak structure plans & deceased attachments. Gloucester, a city of a cross lost a whole quarter in the 1960’s surrendering the cattle market and real links & views out to the surrounding hills. No one could have given a f**k in 1947 if it flooded or not. The immovables of Hereford & Gloucester were the greatest prize of the 15th century due to their protected position in the impenetrable south west heartland of England. Tewksbury is at the confluence of the Seven & Avon. The spiralling spread of indeterminable language left me dazed & confused. Lewis Mumford made up much of his book The City in History but it was thrilling. * Benny Hill was far from a hero in terms of life in cities, featuring in the vaudavillisation of TV Circling Vulture Often I am just going round in circles. I am not alone in this though. It is rather freightening to see yourself in a mirror behind you a reflection of a copy of you shaving and wondering which was the left hand. The Image was different enough to make me think it wasn’t me. Douglas Hofstadter told me recently it wasn’t! As a child in the North East of England the first school was a corrugated set of huts. A black man, the only one in the entire region befriended me, had a broad ‘step & fetchit’ smile and was not after me. He just liked me more than he did the other children. When the school moved to the new St. Mary’s he stood there doing the finishing touches to the circular flower bed and when I was addressed ran away embarrassed my friends would think I knew a black man. But it was my first circular building. Geordie children & German professors refer to the Sorkel & somewhere there there must be a common root. As the tourists sorkel round the Mecca bingo in Newark which looks deliberately like a Mosque because of exotic innuendo. They circle round the real Mecca and round St. Paul’s which is a tremendous amount of Portland stone now missing from Portland Bill. This pattern is similar to Indian braves circling overturned wagons and the tourists often are happy at what they saw. You never see tourists walking away en mess moaning. In the 1950s it was good enough for a young lass to push the bairn around in a pram. In West Bridgford now they ram through the window of Iceland in 4B2s, grab a packet of king prawns & tell the decrepit & sad cashier to “f*ck off” on the way out. * Jarrow Metro Station sculpture ** Informationsheft GB, Alphaville, Westworld, Gerard Depiadier early avante garde films, property ownership in Gloucester & generally te 1970’s, before the internet *** Center Start Place Nouvelle, Furnighausplantechnisdormring or SaucerCupPlateginandtechtonictheorumgefunk


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