Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Salon: Being European.

It's five years since I last posted to Sunday Salon.  Somehow, the habit faded away - but having been directed to its Facebook page by its founder, Debra Hamel, I've decided it was high time I renewed my acquaintance.

As usual, I have several books on the go.  An audiobook - Pat Bakers's Life Class,

a Kindle book - Craig Taylor's Londoners

and then Matthew Zajac's The Tailor of Inverness - one of those quaint old-fashioned mixtures of paper, glue and a little glazed card.  The book.   In its original form - and my favoured alternative.

Life Class is the first of a trilogy, and it slightly annoys me that I read the last of the three, Toby's Room, first.  Although I'm sure it doesn't matter very much, I do like to do these things in order.

Pat Barker is an old favourite.  I must have read her Regeneration trilogy twenty years ago - and this Life Class trilogy returns to a similar era: the First World War.  The story follows some young artists as they skirt around the trenches - not actually combatants, in as part of the Red Cross and therefore just as involved in the terror of it all.  I'm looking forward to doing some ironing later today so I can hear some more.  There's a huge pile so I should be happily 'reading' in this way for some time.

The Londoners is a compilation of interviews on the theme of living in the capital.  It makes a good Kindle book - a section just enough to read on my phone in idle moments .

I know London a little.  I lived and studied there in the nineteen eighties.  I loved it then, but that place I knew is different from the place it is now, and it is becoming ever more different from the rest of the country.  This is something that becomes apparent as I read through this book and its excellent choice of interviewees.  The interview I read last night, for instance,  was by a city planning officer.  London will never be finished, he says, because it was never planned.  It grows chaotically like something living, and all a planning officer can hope to do is manage its growth - picking out weeds like a conscientious gardener.  A planned city is a dead city, he says.  I think that's true.

Planning is a form of  bureaucracy.  And bureaucracy tends to create more bureaucracy -  bureaucrats creating more bureaucrats, thereby creating layers within layers.   It is a form of growth, but  unproductive growth - rather like a canker.  A good gardener might snip it out.