4.12.17

the materials.


The asphalt shorn away and the stone setts showing. Bone beneath the skin. Road built on road built on road. London under London under London.  Roads patchworked with repairs. Skin grafts. Dark patches of new bitumen.

Oil rainbowing in the puddles. Tufts of tussocky grass, sun bleached, yellow, in the gaps between the granite curb stones. Dandelions where pavement meets wall. 

The mildews, moulds and moss of a damp climate. Lichens on the wooden slats of park benches. On the pier caps and coping stones.

Yellow skips stacked. Stencilled logos in blue paint. The skip loaders in the parking bays.

Tall glass carboys filled with dyed water, in the Boots window display. Red food dye and blue food dye in the water.

Jumble sales in church halls. Dishevelled piles of knitwear on trestle tables. Sprawling cardigans. Ladies with thermoses of tea.

Market stalls with tilapia, pabda, and snapper on ice. Flies around the fish. Boxes of Indian mangos. Bunches of coriander. Salt fish hanging from strings. Cow foot. Giant African Land Snails. Jackfruit. Pounded yam flour. Plantain. Groundnuts.

Broken brick walls repaired with breezeblocks. Juxtaposition of materials.

The roads buckled, warped and wrinkled where the heavy lorries travel. Silt deposits banked by road verge. Bollards drunk leaning. Concrete base half uprooted. Bent in collisions.

Tumorous, fungal forms of expanding polyurethane foam filler. Pink fungus around the air vents. 

Wild adventure playgrounds of nailed timbers. Crows nests atop ladders. Bright painted boards. Deconstructed pirate ships, squatting on bomb sites. Anarchy in the wake of the war. Tractor tyre swings.

Paving stones cracked into divinatory text. A pedestrian’s I-Ching. Children’s tiny feet skipping over cracks.

Chewing gum lumped on the paving stones. Gradation of colour denoting age, white and sticky still through to black with the smut of time.

River humping its freight of deflated footballs, coconuts, polystyrene, Lucozade bottles, coins, driftwood and bone.

Bones on the banks of the Thames. Terracotta beaches.

Gruff ululations of the market traders. Hands tucked in apron pocket. Bananabananabanana 3 punnets for a pound. Get your strawberries, sweetest strawberries. Football commentary on the radio.
Flowers rotting into mulch on Columbia road. Trodden into asphalt. Petticoat Lane strewn with coat hangers.

Net curtains in bay windows. Newspaper clippings in ground floor bay windows. Bear bile. Fur farms. Slaughterhouses. Dog fights. Ground floor windows of animal activists. Newspaper clippings fading in the sunlight.

Looking through the windows of houses. Paperbacks and framed prints shoring up genteel poverty. Pompous man with white hair and money, investigates wine round marble kitchen island. Swirling claret round the glass. Potted plants reach out for the sun.

Derelict pubs with the windows boarded up, with the buddleia growing from the window sills and the rooves. Glazed tiles, burgundy, against the frontage.

Truman brewery pubs. Whitbread brewery pubs. Pub signs with the paint peeling. Swinging and creaking in the wind.

Piss rivers partially evaporated, condensed, turned thick and viscous, the dust clinging to them.

The off-license bags, blue, thin plastic, flapping from tree branches. Flags of defeated armies.

Gulls white in the stratus opacus, on the grey cloud sheet. Cormorants black on the grey Thames.

Bushes loud with the cheeping chitter-chatter of sparrows, in and out the bushes. Communal and chirping.

Handwritten notices and adverts on little oblongs of white card, in the windows of the corner shops and newsagents.

Lycatalk. International calling cards advertised in the windows of the newsagents and corner shops. Taxonomies of immigration. Turkmenistan. Liberia. Algeria. Vietnam. Phone home.

Fridges, armchairs, office chairs, on the pavements. Conceptual confusion of interior and out. Four ring cookers in cul-de-sacs. 

Olfactory envelopes. Passing in and out of pockets of scent. 

Skewered meat and fat, raw onion and garlic mayonnaise. 

Hairspray from the hairdressers, with the women sat under the hood dryers reading magazines.

Hot fat, potato and the brisk scent of vinegar.

Starchy smell of rice boiling, drifting from kitchen windows. Hanging in residential streets.

Smell of daal in the residential streets. Spices and the lentils breaking down.

Resiny musk of cannabis perfuming the air.

Stale beer as the pub door opens. Cigarette smoke and sweat. Waft of foetid air.

Churches with the pale brick soot black and the white stone detailing kept clean. Like carved ivory around the windows and the doors. Phallic shapes of windows. Labial folds around the pointed arches. Faces emerging from the white stone.

Chinese takeaways with the counter dividing the room, forward facing. With the laminated menus. With the meat and vegetables in cornflour gravies, Tizer-orange and sticky with sugar. With the gritty curry sauces and the chips in paper bags. Special fried rice in the foil container. With the spring rolls spitting in hot oil. Post-war migrations from Malaysia and Hong Kong. With the names enshrining the optimism and the hope of new beginnings. Welcome Friends. Double Happy. Fortune Gate. Lucky Star. And all the stoicism and sacrifice and endurance. All those small heroisms. With the cooks squatting on the back steps smoking. With the heat rashes and the exhaustion. Jade Garden. Lotus house. Golden Bowl. Lucky Horse. Magic Wok. Imperial Dragon. Pearl City. Great Wall. 

Staging posts and tidemarks of migration.

Green walls of privet hedges shielding ground floor windows.

Balconies on blocks of flats with the garden chairs folded up and the white plastic table mildewed. With the laundry hung out to dry.

The yellow brailled paving stones at pavement edge, at road crossing, for the blind. And the cheeping traffic lights at the road crossings for the blind.

Aztec motifs. Egyptian columns. Flat primary colour. The refusal of gravitas. The postmodernism of ‘80s and ‘90s.

The chicken bones on the pavements. The cigarette butts worn down to flocculent white filter in the gutters. The rain mulched jazz mags in the hedges.

The Bengali garages in the railway arches. Grease wiped on blue overalls.

The forecourts of used car merchants. The chop shops in the back. The cash for stolen vehicles.

Plywood hoardings circumscribing wasteland. Hillocks of rubble. Steel reinforcement rods protruding from broken concrete, rust coloured. The brambles and thistles and buddleia growing. Cats in and out the impromptu wilderness. Sycamore saplings reaching to sunbeams. 

Public art on private land. The empty sculptural gesture. Arid abstraction. Cack-handed, thick-tongued. The abdication of meaning. The statement hollowed out. 

Monumental canvases in office lobbies. Security guards behind giant desks dwarfed by the space. CCTV footage unspooling on several screens. Fecund tropical gardens in high ceilinged lobbies. Palms and ferns and white lilies.

Security guards in portacabins. High-Vis tabards. Transistor radio and tea kettle. Bag of white Tate & Lyle sugar.

Hinged Styrofoam burger box. Champage colour. Torn iceberg lettuce still stuck to burger sauce on the interior. Cardboard chicken and chips box with the grease staining the card. With the cartoon rooster giving the thumbs up. Pizza boxes with the Italian chef, exuberantly moustachioed, grinning, giving the thumbs up. Banded in the colours of the Italian flag.

The Cypriot businesses, with the Virgin Mary in the backroom. Businesses in family hands from the ‘60s.  Growing old with the owners and the children drawn to a different destiny.

The chip shops with the pickles and the chip forks on the counter, the malt vinegar and the salt shaker. The barbers with the hair model photos in the window. Brooding men shot in black and white, three quarter view, the jawline razor sharp. With the hair feathered. With the quiff piled up, and the sides razored. The drycleaners with the air humid. The rails of suits and overcoats. The numbered tickets handed out. The machines belching steam.

The leaves of London plane in autumn, piled up in the parks, and the children kicking through them. In the gutters, palmately lobed, jagged stars.

Sycamore helicopters. Leaf skeletons. Nuts encased in spiny burs. Glossy conkers with the high varnish. Grass seed darts of Wall Barley and Barren Brome.

Modest Methodist churches. Bright mosaics and onion domes of Orthodox churches. Turquoise and gold. And the money going out the churches. No more money in the churches. Congregations of the elderly and infirm.

Pigeons hunched on the rooves of corrugated iron. Sunk in despond, with the feathers puffed up against the cold.

Coots on the canals. The lurid algal carpets covering the canals. Coke cans and beer cans suspended in the algae. Hard men fishing the canals. Nightfishing the lakes and reservoirs and rivers and canals. Tupperware of writhing maggots. 6-pack of lager and a spliff. Moon on the water. Fish rustling the water in the silence. Peace over the waters.

Broken bottles cemented into wall tops. Barbed wire and broken glass.

Karaoke nights in cockney pubs. Irish men in donkey jackets. Irish road crews sweating in summer. Road blocks and traffic checks. IRA fears. Irishmen jokes. Irish pubs of north London. With the joyless methodical drinkers. Red slabs of drinking faces. Guinness and Jamesons.  Guinness and Jamesons. With the Gaelic games on the wall mounted television. No blacks no dogs no Irish.

The permanently closed or rarely opened premises of independent electronic retailers and repairers, cobblers, tailors, hardware stores and ironmongers. All the vanishing monuments to mend and make-do and frugality.  Thin old men with intelligent fingers and steady gaze. Spectacles hung about the neck.

The faded, swinging futurism of launderette fonts. Those ‘60s typefaces on the shop signs. The glass transfers on the windows. Sassy, slim-hipped housewives. Husbands in sharp suits. Olfactory envelope of humid air, damp fabric, steam, detergent and fabric softener. 

The painted ghost signs of early advertising. Paint fading from London brick. Granulated gravy and safety matches. Mild ales and cigarettes.

Horse troughs of hollowed stone.

Mini cab offices where men sat and tatty sofas and smoked and read the papers, 12 inch television flickering in a corner.

Streetfighter II cabinet in the mini cab office. Boys with loose change jangling in trouser pockets. 30p a credit. Hadouken Hadouken Dragon Punch. Sonic Boom Sonic Boom Blade Kick.

Betting shops with the beaded curtain across the doorway.

William Hill windows with a montage of ‘90s sports stars, Sally Gunnel with the Union Jack aloft. Ian Wright in the red and white of Arsenal. Agassi with his dick tenting his tennis shorts and his frosted mullet flapping.  Nick Faldo with a four-iron. And the men loafing inside spending money they don’t have on bets they can’t win. And the small time drug dealers and drug runners killing time.

Girly calendars in the tyre shops. Page 3 blown on a prurient wind. Topless blondes everywhere.
Videos for hire in the post office. Film posters in the window. Death Wish 3, Buster. Before Blockbuster swallowed the industry. Sandwich shops before Pret. Tubs of coleslaw and tuna mayonnaise. Coronation chicken. Sliced cheddar. Cornichons. Pink tongues of ham.

Brutalist towerblocks dwarfed by new development. The low rise council estates with elevated walkways, communal stairwells and bin rooms. The maisonettes with the council escutcheons on the wall.

Boarded up and shuttered libraries from the golden age of Victorian philanthropy. Passmore-Edwards and Andrew Carnegie. Convergence of labour movement and philanthropy. The moral drive. Victoria Park with the Burdett-Coutts memorial. The great auto-didactic drive. The utopian collectivism of the labour movement.  That great outflow of energy.

The sewers and pumping stations of Bazalgette. The railways expanding the scope of London, swallowing countryside, towns and villages.

The umber brick with red glazed brick dressing of Victorian schools. Their gothic aspect, their sharp gables. Chill air of discipline and despond.

The high Victorian gothic of central London hotels, of town halls in outlying suburbs. The decoration taken to derangement. The chintz, the friezes, the steeply sloping rooves, the pinnacles.
Peabody Homes. East London Housing.

Alms-houses horseshoed around a communal garden. White cat curled up in the rhododendron bush.

The iron-ribbed rooves of train sheds. Light filtered through dust and bird shit and bird down on the glass ceilings. The monumental space. The pigeons in the rafters. The cast-iron in filigrees. The industrial cathedral. The art of the engineer.

The heavy doors of the inter-city trains. Arm reaching through open window to find the latch. Chanting of hooligans in the mainline stations.

Moquettes of the London Underground and London buses. Patterned wool blends faded from use. Seats sagging from arse-weight.

Unlet premises of ex-Somali internet cafes. An economic niche opens for an instant, and swings shut again.

The West Indian barbers with the crowd of customers and loafers spilling out onto pavement. The community hub.
Vietnamese women in the nail parlours. Face masks against the chemicals and the solvents.

Billposters of Leninists and Trotskyites, fomenting revolution.

Political graffiti of the ‘70s and ‘80s. white paint applied with roller or brush in big, block capitals.  G. Davis is Innocent. Free Nelson Mandela. Vote NF/NF Out.

Graffiti of the ‘90s. Eine throwups on shop shutters. Chromes on the tracksides. Tags on train and bus interiors. Big fluid lines of black marker pen. RCS. PFB. BNB. DDS. All the names of that period. Regret, Diet, Acrid, Cred, Cos, Teach, Drax, Sub, Robbo, Elk, Cept, Eine, Fume, Keen, Faum, Mear, Fuel, Shuto, Mean, Zomby, Zonk.
Halls of Fame at West Ham, Fulham, Westbourne Park, Plaistow, Tufnell Park, Faringdon.
Tags scratched into bus windows. Acid marker tags. Spraypaint tags as the trace of a gesture, a fluent, practiced movement, glide of paint marking a movement. Points of density and points of diffusion marking distance from wall surface, length of time at place.

Crossbars and goalposts painted on walls. Cricket wickets painted on walls. Hopscotch grids chalked on the pavements.

Tiny old women all dressed in shades of brown. Brown headscarves, brown overcoats, brown hosiery, brown shoes. Shopping in a granny trolley towed behind them. Bent into a spiteful wind.

Orange night under the sodium lamps. Orange light pooling on the roads and pavements.
Foxes in and out the shadows, in and out the pools of light.

Flowers in cellophane, dying, drying out, sellotaped to pedestrian guard rails. Children stabbed to death, bleeding out on the pavements. Cyclists crushed under the wheels of heavy goods vehicles. White ghost bikes chained to the pedestrian guard rails. Road dust in the dead flowers. Impromptu shrines to dead children, to dead teenagers. Messages and poems and dedications and memories.

Tramps gathered round burning braziers. Tramps round bonfires of burning pallets. Bottles of blended whisky. British sherry. Fortified lager. Plastic bottles of super-strength cider. Glens Vodka. Bells Scotch.

Tramps in skag sleep on sheets of cardboard. Syringes in public toilets.

Football cages on the estates. Ball clattering into cage fence.

Decommissioned fountains in municipal parks, the pond a pool of fallen leaves.

Churches of Kentish ragstone.

Wren spires and Wren steeples. Spears of white stone stuck in soil. Bone-needles. Ivory harpoons.

Flashing amber lollipops of zebra crossings.

Window grilles on the warehouses. Clatter of sewing machines in the sweatshops.

Anarchists and addicts in the squats. Dope smoking hippies on the narrowboats.

Barges up and down the brown river. High walls around the defunct docks. Dock cranes with no cargo to unload.

Smell of the factories at the southern mouth of the Blackwall tunnel. Chimneys staining the sky with ersatz cloud. Industry at Bugsbys Marshes.

Mauve exhaust billows from tailpipes. Carbon monoxide and particulate matter in the chewy air.

Tyre marks, arcs of black rubber on the road bends. Inscriptions of a movement.

Hubcaps and shattered headlight guards under the median barriers. Median barriers furred with road-dust.

Shattered glass of bus shelters like hailstones on the pavements.

Green painted metal doors of the indoor electrical substations. Yellow death warnings on the wall.

Billpostered and graffitied street cabinets. Insides a chaos of intestinal wires.

Ironwork of coal hole covers and manhole covers, with the names of the ironworkers embossed on their shields.
 Paint splashed onto pavement. Physics of dispersal and flow. The causal grid of circumstance. THE NATURE OF THE MATERIALS.

Cement works with the cement mixers regimented in the waiting bays.

Big-box stores on the retail parks. The fast food outlets clustered around the multiplex cinema and bowling alley. 

Whisky miniatures in the planting boxes. Among the dragonsnaps. 

Hollyhocks and bindweed by the towpaths of the canals. Hogweed and nettles on the marshes.

Islands in the boating lakes. Shrouded in small scale mystery. Cormorants perched in the tree branches, in the Christ pose, with the wings outstretched and the feathers drying. Willows weeping by the shore.

Herons fishing in the shallows, in the green mud of the river banks.

Frog chorus in the purple dusk around the pond. Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax!

Birds nests woven of twigs and grasses and plastics. Grasses woven with plastic drinking straws.

Pub blackboards advertising local bands and cover acts. Ladies night. Disco DJs. Pool competitions. With the comic drawings in the 1970s style. Bulbous noses like squeeze horn bulbs, guffawing, hands clutching swollen bellies. Beer in dimpled pint mugs. If they had names, would have names like Curly and Chalky and Mo.

Art Deco cinemas converted to bingo halls. Red and gold of Victorian theatre interiors. Red velvet drapes and walls the plasterwork highlighted in gilt paint. Music halls converted to Mega Churches.

Poured concrete caves of loading bays and underground carparks. The light yellow and ghostly on the smooth grey walls. The arm barrier, red and white, striped like rock, guarding the entrance.

Local museums of knapped flints and stuffed foxes, yellowing brocade and bone china.

The curry houses with the white linen, heavy and starched on the tables. The waiters in burgundy ties, burgundy waistcoats. The the poppadoms on the tray with the mango chutney, with the raw white onion, with the lime pickle with the imli chutney, with the yoghurt sauce.

The small trattorias with the candles in the Chianti bottles. With the huge pepper grinders.

Tourists with glazed eyes of exhaustion and disorientation, on the red pleather banquettes of Garfunkels. In Angus Steakhouse or at the salad bar in Pizza Hut, smothering iceberg lettuce and croutons in Thousand Island dressing.

The faux-vernacular of red brick Tesco stores, squatting on the town edges, islands adrift on carpark lakes. And the men pushing the trolley trains through the carparks. And the customers loading shopping into the car boots.

Flyposting gummed to plyboard hoardings and walls. Concertinaed a hundred layers deep. London under London under London.  Layered in sediment. Raves and reggae concerts. Jamaican comedians on tour. Compendiums of dance music styles and trends snaking into the near past.

Burger vans clustered round football stadiums on matchday and the traffic stuck in the throng.

Playgrounds on asphalt. Rubber playground mulch, or woodchip around the equipment.  Swing and slides and roundabouts the bigger kids push so fast you’re scared you’ll lose your grip and be flung to the floor.

West Indian night clubs and blues parties spilling revellers onto the streets in the small hours and the bass rattling the windows in their frames.

The Bengali men heaving lamb carcasses, headless and furless, from the back of white lorries, to the shops, blood wiped on white overalls. Lambs slung over shoulder. 

The dark railway viaducts. The brown stock brick. The black glazed brick.  The arching spans of brick. The rhythm of those arches like rhythm of train over track. “in the event of any vehicle striking this bridge”

The corrugated iron fences and makeshift gates of goods yards and scrap yards.
 
NO PARKING in block capitals roughly painted on corrugated iron gates.

Cow parsley and Alexanders, red dead nettle and daisy on the wasteground.

Earth shifting and opening graves in the churchyards. Stone lifted aside and angels toppled.

Prostitutes cards in the phone boxes.

Stinkpipes marking the site of closed down public toilets.

Specimens of superseded technologies,  bankrupted businesses, discredited ideologies, psychologies and faiths, all preserved like embryos in bell jars, swimming in formaldehyde. 

All we’ve wasted for want of love.
















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