3 February 2009

Dickensian era throw backs in the weather. Laughing apprentices at some small steelworks bombard passers by from the rooftops down by the long closed down Niche all nighter venue. Beautiful how the three lads up there silhouette against the flat gray sky as they duck up from behind the low wall on the roof, pelting those that struggle unsteady in the deep snow on the pavements below. A trio of more or less amiable snipers. Snows good for yer one of them yells, shell suit hood pulled tight around grinning face, two gloved hands containing missiles at the ready. Just don't eat any that's yellow says the other and they launch the attack, laughing. Even those struck seem fine, resigned to their fate in sniper alley, somehow glad that the world does not work properly today and, partly mesmerised by their own irregular footsteps, the steady dampening of the city, its slow descent, now begun, into the silence and stillness that will bind it at night. Up near home it's much the same, traffic already at more or less a standstill, the pavements a mix of strugglers and impromptu fighters. At the Exhaust Fitters/Car Maintenance place right opposite my house the blokes have pretty much abandoned work in favour of more pressing business, and are all out on the forecourt, an army in blue overalls defending their territory against a small group of kids/teenagers that are dug in behind some parked cars on the opposite side of the street. Snowballs vault the road, pedestrians caught in the crossfire, the odd car taking its chances to pass thru, wheels grinding and slipping as the shots fire overhead. The kids – a mix of Asian lads and white boys, a few girls in their headscarves,  all bare hands, no gloves, are outnumbered in any case by the laconic blokes in blue, the music of the latter spilling from their workshop, their Radio One clanging out into the landscape from tinny forecourt speakers to fall on the foot churned snow. There is something of carnival in it, and a total joy in the ease and delight with which people abandon the regular day and let loose into this one.


And this from my friend Alan Read:

"As we waited 18 years for this modest correction I wondered if this might be a balance to the arguments about lost GDP and travel chaos:

'The city without the child’s particular motion is a malignant paradox. The child discovers its identity against all odds, damaged and damaging in perpetual danger and incidental sunshine. Edged towards the periphery of attention, the child survives, an emotional and unproductive quantum. When snow falls on cities, the child, taking over for a while, is all at once Lord of the city. Now, if the child thus assisted, rediscovers the city, the city may still rediscover its children. If childhood is a journey, let us see that the child does not travel by night. Where there is some room, something more permanent than snow can still be provided as a modest correction. Something, unlike snow, the city can absorb; and not altogether unlike the many incidental things already there the child adapts anyhow to its own needs at its own hazard.'

Aldo Van Eyck, quoted by Francis Strauven in ‘Aldo Van Eyck’, Amsterdam: Architectura and Natura, 1998, p. 169.