Posted on Thursday, 14 February
‘A Coffee-house is free to all Comers, so they have Humane shape, where a Liquor made of an Arabian Berry called Coffee is drunk. Six or seven years ago it was first brought into England, when the Palats of the English were as Fanatical, as their Brains.’
Posted on Thursday, 24 January
All streets of the City slope down between deepening canyons to a vast, kidney-shaped plaza full of darkness. Walls of street and plaza are perforated by dwelling cubicles and cafes, some a few feet deep, others extending out of sight in a network of rooms and corridors.
At all levels criss-cross of bridges, cat walks, cable cars. Catatonic youths dressed as women in gowns of burlap and rotten rags, faces heavily and crudely painted in bright colors over a strata of beatings, arabesques of broken, suppurating scars to the pearly bone, push against the passer-by in silent clinging insistence.
Traffickers in the Black Meat, flesh of the giant aquatic black centipede - sometimes attaining a length of six feet - found in a lane of black rocks and iridescent, brown lagoons exhibit paralyzed crustaceans in camouflage pockets of the Plaza visible only to the Meat Eaters.
Naked Lunch, 1959
Posted on Saturday, 24 November
Posted on Wednesday, 3 October
‘…The King’s most Royal Majesty, seeing daily before his most noble eyes that notwithstanding the sundry good and wholesome laws and statutes made by his highness and his most noble progenitors for the good and virtuous occupation of his people, the persuasion of the same from idleness, the mother and root of all mischiefs, and the punishment of vagabonds, ruffians, and idle persons, there do remain yet in this realm of England, specially about the city of London, a great number of ruffians and vagabonds, to whom albeit God hath given personage and strength apt and able to labor, work and do service for their living, yet be they so wasted in mischief and idleness that they give themselves no labor or honest kind of living, but entertain themselves with theft [and] falsehood in play, whereby many simple young men be polled and some utterly undone, and with other detestable vices and fashions commonly used at the bank and such like naughty places where they much haunt and in manner lie nightly for the accomplishment and satisfying of their vile, wretched, and filthy purposes.
Posted on Monday, 13 August
With the completion of the Shard, the London press was in a sudden abundance of articles concerning the tower and what it signifies. Following the sudden erection of its central concrete column the tower had been slowly assembling itself on the southern bank of the Thames at Bermondsey since 2009. However, it was only by way of a laser show a few weeks ago that the Shard was to have been officially registered on the London skyline, and damned or celebrated accordingly.
The Shard has been variously charged: as a pure signifier of greed; as a triumph of design; as a propaganda device for capitalists, or for Qataris, or both; as a symbol of hope with which to weather the recession; as the hysterical symbol of architectural egomania; as the end of a good view from Hampstead Heath. For those for whom it is an empty monument the Shard is to be disregarded, but as the tallest structure in the EU (as so many parties are wont to remind us) the Shard begs to differ. It is a colossal gnomon demanding the recalibration of London’s centre, a new point from which to take the city’s measure.
Posted on Friday, 15 June
I had thought it natural to be on the run from villages; the real ones where I had grown up had been close and sticky places, reservoirs of prejudice and refined malice. The quasi-gentry of the private bar, sheltering behind wet dogs and shaggy pipes, had been loud and philistine. The dog was called Ajax, and its owner himself was a kind of muddy-booted Greek, standing the verger drinks and roaring through the fog. Yet the Highgate villagers made this despised life precious; they were pickling it with the same wonder that I reserved for the Dickensian labyrinth of colour and coincidence. If I was unable to respond to the style itself, at least I could recognise the yearning and affection which went into its making. - Soft City, Jonathan Raban