Monday, 5 May 2008

Siouxsie Sioux and the Aylesbury

Caught the 343 down to Brockley today. A relatively painless ride except for some African yelling into his mobile right down to Peckham Rye. Even after I put the headphones on, I could hear this guy yabbering away, his outburst resounding in staccato points between the lows and highs of the music. Finally, it was just him and me on the top level, and even with the music cranked, I could STILL hear the silly fucker. 

   What the fuck is it with people here and their mobiles? The mobile phone has ruined so many public spaces in London. 

   On the way back, the peaks of the Aylesbury appeared just as Siouxsie and the Banshees 'Quartermaster of the Dog' came on the headphones. That slow guitar opening, seguing into the repeated riff then Siouxsie's childlike (or just plain childish) organ riff - moody, haunting, one of the songs that made up the soundtrack to my younger days haunting marveling at places like the Aylesbury. With the sunlight reflecting off the rows of windows, the towers - two or three city blocks long, angled north-south and stacked one behind the other and joined by lines of two or three story buildings with the same grey stucco panels and factory issue council windows, the same little balconies and yards, interspersed now with satellite dishes . . . old white couples tapping forward on their canes, middle-class looking black people in nice hats and coats. A 'KIDZ' centre and the text of the 'I have a dream' speech by Martin Luther King painted as a mural on the wall. 

   Then came the lead edges of one of the towers, spreading out along the horizon like some sort of freighter  - a freighter converted into a refugee ship, arriving with the dawn. 

   These shapes seem so iconic now. Channel 4 recognized as much when they started using Mark Lewis' clips of the Aylesbury as one of their intro sequences. But for me,  it will always be a symbol of the period in my life when I was fascinated by these huge estates and how they sprawled over south London. 

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Woke up this morning to the dawn breaking over that huge estate behind Heygate Road, the one that rises like a cliff from the mass of tree branches down below. Even in the shadow cast by the rising sun, you can make out the metal plates over the windows, the bare concrete and metal where the paint is peeling away. From a distance, the estate looks like some drydocked tanker being readied to be keelhauled. That same melancholy feeling of a long journey coming to an end, the structure breaking apart under it's own weight. 

I'd almost stopped noticing that estate - indeed become sort of inured to it. Remarkable how quickly this can happen - the flacking concrete, the iron bars, the massive buildings themselves - all become background. Last night, when the kids were out in the little playground out back of Claydon House, swinging on the miniature ferris wheel, and people strolled along the walkways coming home from work, you could almost forget about the estate altogether. You stop seeing the estate but it's empty spaces, it's decay, it's inhuman scale, all become a part of you and you stop seeing outward. A part of you starts going numb and the estate begins to claim you.