The aerotropolis of Heathrow

Each year at the start of the autumn term, I lead my students on a walk from Brunel University, about three miles from Heathrow as the jet flies, to the boundary of Europe’s busiest airport.

Our route passes through the rundown area of West Drayton, a desert with windows in which everything costs 99p. Though the airport is a leading regional employer, many of its skilled workers prefer to live in the Chilterns or along the river in Windsor or Henley. Former manufacturing districts such as Hayes on the M4 corridor — once home to EMI and a host of hi-tech interwar businesses — now have to survive on a drip-feed of zero-hours contracts for frothy-coffee dispensers and airline meal assemblers.

Umbrella interview and pieces

As the publication of Umbrella on August 16 nears, Will Self talks to the Observer about his new Man Booker-longlisted novel (and, briefly, his next novel, which will be “Jaws without the shark”.)

Will has also written a piece in the FT about what he terms “everythingitis”, which he feels every time he finishes a book, and how he conducts his research. There’s also a long piece here that he wrote for the Guardian Review about modernism and how he got going as a writer.