Thursday, May 11, 2006

Change is inevitable

More time to kill in London yesterday morning. I have to get an early train in order to get parked at Wakefield Station (or nearby car parks). The first "cheap" train leaves 8:17, arriving at about 10:30.

I prefer Man-made constructs to nature. I'd rather go to the top of a high building than the top of a mountain. Nature has its place, but the touch of an Engineer gives it human scale. The skill of an artisan gives it grace and form. The fashions of the period give it character, unless the post-modernists are involved.

Today, my meeting was in the Covent Garden Area. I took a walk up to Murder One, a crime and sci-fi bookshop on Charing Cross Road, probably the only easy source of vintage Sci-Fi from the masters like Robert Heinlein, still one of my favourite authors for the last 20 years. Shock horror! It was all boarded up. Then I noticed that it had swapped sides of the road. However, there was a big queue to get in, due to a book signing. Rats...

Covent Garden was its usual tourist attraction. I wandered into Pollocks toyshop downstairs lobby, I name I recognised as the origin of Penny plain, tuppence coloured. There was an absolutely sumptious model theatre in a display cabinet and I now regret not having gone upstairs, having seen the website.

The meeting was in an old building in Southampton Street just south of the Piazza, although I was startled to find that the building was entirely new within the shell of the facade. The original BCS building near the BBC Broadcasting House had been a graceful georgian affair and I had spent at least five three hour sessions in there taking exams. This new building was much more modern and well equipped, although looking back at the facade on the way out, I noticed it had a number of steel vertical straps keeping the integrity of the facade intact. (You can see one to the right of the clock in this photo).

I have been in so many London buildings over the years, particularly theatres. However, I now find I'm of an age where I can't always identify which ones, or muddle them up. I did a big double-take in Victoria recently when a landmark building to me, the Esso headquarters, had entirely disappeared and been replaced by something else. It wasn't anything special, but it was my first site where I was in charge of the job. I can vividly remember running cables a very convoluted route through the depths of the complex, including feeling the Circle line trains rumbling beneath a concrete hump in the sub-basement. The run went through a deeds safe which had the original plaques of the first esso London Buildings (Exxon or maybe Standard Oil) stored away for posterity.

Now, there it is, gone. Some Buildings outlive people, but far too many outlive their usefulness, particularly the interesting ones.

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