I’ve just been to a rather touching little ceremony in celebration of the beginning of a project to renovate Bond Street. As was pointed out in the speeches, given the amount the grand shops spend on display inside their doors and considering how important Bond Street is to the international shopping economy, it is odd how poor the public realm has been – a three-lane racing track at its north end and the street divided half way down by a flower stall. When I first got involved in local affairs (I have been a member of the Bond Street Strategy Group), it never crossed my mind that anything could, or would, be done to rectify this state of affairs. But by an impressive, but inscrutable, combination of the public and private, the pavement and the street are being improved to coincide, more or less, with the opening of our building in Burlington Gardens and Crossrail.
I got back from work this evening to find our front entrance hall full of boxes of surplus copies of the special edition of my book which have been printed at my expense in China. I cannot pretend that it is a bargain, costing £125 on special offer from John Sandoe, its sole distributor. All I can say is that it is slightly more sensuous than the standard edition – a bargain at £19.95 -, is printed on a higher quality of subtly creamy paper with rounded corners, quarter cloth binding and the photographs appearing even crisper as a result. It is a special treat for bibliomaniacs, designed by Harry Pearce, and can be ordered at http://www.johnsandoe.com/product/east-london.
I love the views from London rooftops. So, it was a particular pleasure to get out on the 9th floor of The Ned, a new hotel conveniently close to Bank underground station, and find a view of all of central London’s major rooftops, including, in the foreground, Jim Stirling’s No. 1, Poultry, with its polychromatic stonework:-
The dome of St. Paul’s, grandly numinous against the evening sun:-
And the box on the top of Rem Koolhaas’s slickly, smartly corporate headquarters for the Rothschild bank:-
We went last night to the first night of Thomas Adès’s new opera The Exterminating Angel (well, not quite new because it was performed last year at the Salzburg Festival): a brilliant, macabre, musically loud and unplaceably complex study of a group of people – the haut bourgeois – at a dinner party and unable to escape, so watch each other’s filthy moral decay. Based on Luis Buñuel’s 1962 film El ángel exterminador, which I haven’t seen, it has been adapted and directed beautifully by Tom Cairns.
I got a quick dose of biophilia this morning by walking in Highgate Wood – a tiny, but surprisingly well preserved bit of old woodland just off the road from Highgate to Muswell Hill, originally owned by the Bishop of London and now by the City Corporation. At this time of year, it is thick with bluebells:-
I had been tipped off that the first review of my book would appear today. It has, by Rowan Moore in the Observer New Review: friendly and fair, Moore manages not to reveal that he is himself a long-term East End resident, perhaps, indeed, a gentrifier himself. I like the description of it as ‘Pevsner’s Buildings of England guides, but with the subjective comment knob turned up and the academic one turned down’. The only error is that Apple gets all the credit for the photographs (the headline reads ‘The East End through Apple-tinted glasses’), whereas attentive readers of my blog will know, all the photographs were taken on a Samsung.
My last post from Southern Spain is to salute the memory of Michael Jacobs, the passionate Hispanophile whose guide to Andalucía, published in its more recent editions by Pallas Athene, has given me the utmost pleasure, not just for its gazetteer, useful though that is, but more for its long and wonderful introduction, which covers so many aspects of Andalucían history and culture with such scholarly authority, including the character of the Alhambra, the nature of Spanish baroque architecture, how best to enjoy flamenco, and the pleasures of the pilgrimage to El Rocío. Through it all it’s clear how much he revelled in the wilder aspects of Andalucían life. A great loss, dying relatively young, three years ago.