Pierce Penniless

By numbers here from shame and censure free,
All crimes are safe, but hated poverty.
– Samuel Johnson, ‘London’

London is a dirty city.

It is dirty in the plain sense: a day spent in its streets, and you acquire the film of grease and universal muck stubbornly ineradicable from even the most advanced of cities. It is dirty in the noirish sense too, remarkably at ease with corruption, full of hood-lidded surprise that anyone would be so gauche as to think back-room deals and palm-greasing even worth commenting on. There are different kinds of dirt: the respectable black patina of centuries of industrialisation in the folded robes of saints on ancient churches, coating the walls and domes of London’s universities; the dirty windows and unemptied bins of the poorer districts. And, of course, the worst dirt floats and festers at the very top.

This theme – the ecology of…

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Doreen Massey, ‘Landscape/Space/Politics: An Essay’

A wonderful essay by the geographer Doreen Massey, which she wrote to accompany the film made by Patrick Keiller as part of their Landscape and Environment research project.

The project set out to investigate received ideas about belonging and other, related subjects, by exploring part of a familiar though not always sympathetically viewed landscape – the southern English ‘countryside’ – equipped with a 35mm cine camera.

It was prompted by what appeared to be a discrepancy between, on one hand, the cultural and critical attention devoted to experience of mobility and displacement and, on the other, a tacit but seemingly widespread tendency to hold on to formulations of dwelling that derive from a more settled, agricultural past. While the former was extensive, it often seemed to involve regret for the loss or impossibility of the latter, and hence to reinforce, rather than rethink, some easily questionable ideas.