“I like the cut of Jenny Jones’s jib. I like the way she said she wouldn’t be Mayor even if all the others died – it showed a commendable humility. I have a few quibbles about some of the Greens’ attitudes, but I’m roughly in tune with them. I like Boris, he’s always been nice to me, but he is also ruthlessly self-centred and ambitious. I’ve never believed the mayoralty was an end in itself for him. I loathe Ken, I think he has come to resemble one of his newts. In a sense I would like to vote for the Labour candidate, but I can’t vote for Ken.”
Fun interview between Will Self and David Tennant in the Evening Standard about Will’s short story The Minor Character, which has been turned into a short film on Sky Arts, and which stars David Tennant as “Will”, 12 April, 9pm on Sky Arts 1 (sky.com/arts).
“Back in the early 1980s I worked for the GLC as a playleader (don’t laugh), and reported to the department that ran adventure playgrounds from a ratty prefab office at Burgess Park in Camberwell.
“I thought Burgess Park pretty much the arse-end of the universe, an oppressively thin ribbon of an open space which still showed the scars of the houses and factories that had been cleared to create it. A mere stripling, I had yet to appreciate the necessity of a park for urban dwellers, nor how even the most unprepossessing and debatable of lands can be a source of pride and joy.
If you couldn’t make it along to the Royal Academy last night to hear Will Self talking about why Stockwell Bus Garage is the most important building in London, then you can read a short version here at the Standard’s website.
“Arriving at the Hove flat the film director John Hillcoat shares with his wife, the photographer Polly Borland, and their eight-year-old son, Louie, I’m met by a great pile of plastic toys dominating the huge Regency room. There’s a child’s drum kit, crates full of toy cars, space hoppers, a play stove … actually, there’s so much stuff it’s impossible to grasp with the eye, let alone enumerate. ‘Oh, gosh,’ says Hillcoat, in his soft Australian accent, ‘we’re having a material cull. We realised we hadn’t thrown anything out for years — since we moved here in fact.’
“I was walking to the local post office one morning this week when I came across a policeman looking grimly at a large pile of car tyres that had been dumped in the gutter.
“‘You’re looking tired out,’ I quipped, but when he failed to smile I went on philosophically: ‘Well, that’s London for you.’
“‘No,’ he replied, still stony-faced. ‘That’s Stockwell.’
“I went on my way a little chagrined at his stereotyping of my neighbourhood, which, while it may have its problems, still deserves a less negative attitude from its law enforcers.
“In what may well be one of the last utilitarian bean-counting exercises performed by New Labour, the Department of Communities and Local Government has reported the results of its latest ‘Place Survey’. This is a comprehensive look at how satisfied Britons are with where they live.
“You and I might well imagine such activity should be confined to the Ministry of Stating the Bleeding Obvious but why make things easy when you can generate great mounds of paper and waste the time of a great many people and the money of a great many taxpayers to discover that, lo! The inhabitants of leafy Richmond upon Thames report an approval rating of 92.4 per cent.
“I love London — don’t get me wrong; but it’s a love that’s only the positive pole of a quite profound ambivalence. I think all of us can agree that there are times when the sheer size and weight of the city closes in on us — a vice of bricks, mortar, concrete and steel. For this reason I’ve never liked living in those districts of the city that have no natural features at all. This isn’t too much of a problem, for London — being in a river valley — abounds in hills and rises.
“I suppose that for those of us who make some of our living from writing about fictional dystopias, rather than utopias, the hysterical reaction to the news that Dr Karim Nayernia and his team at Newcastle University claim to have ‘created’ human sperm in the laboratory can only be a good thing.
“It’s gratifying that in the 77 years since Aldous Huxley published Brave New World his vision of a future in which humans are produced in assembly-line laboratories, according to predetermined characteristics — physical, intellectual and emotional — still remains so deeply embedded in the popular consciousness.
Feature article in the Evening Standard about the tension between black-cab drivers and mini-cab drivers as the recession bites.