Monday, February 02, 2009


I love the fact that London grinds to a halt in the snow; it's the truest manifestation of the British psyche, fired up and riding the skidoo of shame. A Canadian told me he can't believe how Londoners over-react to the weather, how today in London's just like the first traces of snow you get in Vancouver in November, before the real winter kicks in. But can't you see, I countered, we simply don't want to go to work? Any excuse - a rail strike, snow, rain, leaves, Mark E Smith dying - you just wanna punch the air with glee when you see a blanket of snow outside your window.

Oh yeah, I said, and the reason there's no buses, and half the tubes are down is simply cos...the drivers stayed in bed! So did the gritter man. If I was the gritter man, I wouldn't have ventured out on a day like this. Sadly, the Northern Line was still running (NORTHERN LINE DRIVERS=SELFISH) so I went in to work.

I figured that, if I showed my face, it wouldn't matter if I turned up late or went early, so I got off at Kings X and decided to walk to Regents Park. I'm quite fond of St Pancras Parish Church and it was a joy to see the four marble beauties smothered in snow (very Death In June album cover). All around me, harried office workers - the same twits who wear flip flops during summer - were skidding around in the slush, shuffling like zombies who'd just messed their kecks, their sensible shoes unaccustomed to the crunchy wet mess. It was the first decent opportunity to wear the black furry Russian hat I picked up for a tenner in St Petersburg, and I had some paraboots on, so I had no problem stomping along, breathing in the good, honest winter air.

Approaching TCR and Warren Street station, I noted that the slush had turned a filthy greeny brown, as if a flock of babies from the UCH maternity unit had staged a dirty protest. I carried on to Great Portland Street. A load of black rubbish bags lay sprinkled with snow, emitting a sickly sweet waft of rotting pizza. Someone had constructed a disabled dwarf snowman with courgette or cucumber slices for buttons, I couldn't make out what veg had been used to form his eyes. Ah, this is my London, I sighed, as I pushed an old lady out of the way, sending her under the wheels of a Renault Trafic van. It's not like the old bill would be bothered, they'd mostly stayed at home too - Hendon doesn't teach the plod advanced driving skills anymore - so, with the gritter man only just rousing himself to breakfast, the cops were too scared to brave it on the roads, and risk squealing across a sheet of ice into the front of an office block.

Up Marylebone, on and on, a man dressed like a snowboarder falls on his arse outside St Marylebone Parish Church, lands in a drift peppered with dog ends, soaks his rump. The church crypt is offering a fry-up and coffee, but I've got this horrible suspicion that the eggs will be the consistency of snot and that the coffee will taste of sludge (something to do with cheap Christian gourmet), so I carry on. I'll take in Regents Park on the way back. A load of waxwork-fancying tourists are queuing up outside Tussaud's. I've only been there once. I don't know if they've still got them in there, but they used to have the Manson family in the early 80s. And Gary Gilmore, getting repeatedly shot. And Bruno Hauptmann getting the electric chair. And the Black Panther hanging round outside his cell, needing a shave. The Gary Gilmore one was tops, I spent ages gazing into his eyes as the tracer bullets took him out, again and again.

Regents Park was shit. All covered in snow. Boring.

Someone has scrawled 'rich people live here' (all lower case) on the side of a block of apartments and offices near Hanover Gate. Like, no shit! Who wrote this? A team of amateur burglars? Someone from Class War? When it comes to state-the-obvious graffiti, my all-time favourite's still the legend sprayed onto a wall in Dunstable in the early 90s, by some idiot/genius. It simply read: "HITLER WAS A NAZI".

Three fellow Russian hat wearers spotted. Good range of colours, grey, brown, black. All with our little badges in the centre. Mine has the hammer and sickle in a red star. I don't know whether that indicates it's a bogus knock-off job, maybe you get more 'cred' if you're wearing a DDR one, or one with the logo of a tank division or something. But it was only a tenner off a deaf man in St Petersburg. Actually, I didn't even pay for it, it was some girl. Oh God, it's not authentic is it. Just some dead cat they punted to the decadent West. Nobody else has their ear flaps down. I just let mine swing in the breeze - fastening them round your chin would be a piss-take, it's not THAT cold - plus doing that makes me look like my child's just been shot in 1943 Belarus. Instead, I look like a fucking beagle in a long coat. But what can you do?

I thought I'd discover something new about Central London in the snow; I'm not sure what. Trudging back past the old MI5/Capital Radio HQ, I realised 1) I'd overshot my destination 2) When other people go on 'drifts', they dig up all sorts of urban esoterica. Like alchemists, they conjure it into a speculative view of the future, make all sorts of wildly zig-zagging connections before reaching a partially obscured and arcane, yet teasing, beckoning truth.

Me? I saw a wonky vegetable snowman, no buses, some crap graffiti and a man fall on his arse. It reminds me of the time I attempted a 'drift' of Wapping, a while back, hoping to unearth the remnants of the old Autonomy Centre, or find some traces of the dockers' ghosts in the silent parks and gastropubs named after dead pirates. But all that happened was I slipped on some steps and ended up slaloming, on my backside, into a small beach of River Thames quag. My drifts are disasters.

11.30 - I finally reach work. Six people are in, including my neurotic manager. She starts gushing on about how the snow's going to get worse and engulf us all, and how everyone had better hit the tube and go home ASAP, before we end up snowed in, trapped in the office and eating each other to stay alive. See what I mean about any old excuse? I'm not going to argue, she's my senior and the thought of death by snow drift's never appealed to me. Capt Scott may have died when his semen froze during a mid-morning wank, but I'd rather go out doing something vaguely warm. So, after 15 minutes of swapping 'how did you get in today?'stories, everyone bolts for the door, desperate to get home and hibernate, the taxi drivers licking their scabby lips and praying for the tube to grind to a halt...anything, ANYTHING, as long as we jump the tube before it descends into pandemonium - commuters pushing each other onto the tracks...screams and chaos as, one by one, the stations slam shut their gates...frozen corpses who missed the last northbound Victoria, rotting on the platforms. Our company had to understand our plight - we were at serious risk here, we needed to retreat to safety before it was too late! We had time to quickly hit the pub for a few pints and some nosh before we boarded our trains, though - went without saying.
Your confession about having a job has destroyed my faith in the whole BTi project. Things will never be the same....
To be fair, on that Wapping Drift we did meet an American lady, who was very nice. And I threw up on my sofa. Granted, I'm sure Iain Sinclair wouldn't do that.
I've seen Sinclair wet himself in a pub toilet, his trousers round his ankles, screaming "MY LEYS ARE OUT OF LINE" - it's just he's too soft to write about it. Wapping account will follow, even if it is months after the fact, and we never took any photos. Hey, all you pseudo-drifters - we don't have TIME to take snaps when we're engaged in heads-down, no-nonsense DRIFT.

I think we should do another one soon. Where do you fancy a drink?
I say Battersea. Or Marylebone. Or Greenwich.

We really didn't learn very much on our last drift did we? Other than don't leave your card behind the bar in a pub and then forget it, and I think I knew that anyway.
Marylebone's good, but a bit pricey. Then again, everyone else is trooping through delapidated areas, maybe we should focus our psychogeographical enquiries on upmarket areas? I quite fancy some foie gras and a bottle of port. Maybe we can get the Arts Council to sponsor us, as long as we hold an exhibition afterwards.
there's a lot of quite scary net-curtain pubs around Marylebone (the northern part, rather than the high street), and I was sort of thinking if we went to them we could pretend to meet an electrician who reads John Cowper Powys and worships the natural electricity of cairns or something. Luckily for the prospects of our exhibition, I've a whole wall's worth of pictures of Hitler that I've been wondering what to do with.

I fucking love port.
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