Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Are You Arsenal in Disguise?



Winner of the inadvertently bizarre gentrification (cough, sorry, regeneration) award this week: The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. I've spent lots of time in Woolwich in the last year, and it's a bustling, shabby, impoverished place: fine charity shops, a certain weirdness and independence that you don't get in most SE London areas - but a place, on the whole, fairly un-'regenerated'. I'd been told that the former Arsenal, a huge complex of factories and warehouses that churned out materials for maiming and murder for several hundred years, had been tidied up and made into a little enclave for the more comfortable, and had been past it a couple of times, not bothering to venture inside. I had no idea quite how large-scale, how jarring, this project would actually be. You cross the vastly unpleasant arterial road that runs alongside the river and the ferry, going past some fairly standard Victorian warehousing and a sign saying 'PRIVATE ROAD' - then you're in the Arsenal, and a hotch-potch of infill pokes out among the industrial utilitarianism - some designed in an achingly precise Quinlan Terry neo-Georgian, some in the more familar Ikea Modernism idiom of stock-brick and plastic.




What makes it so very peculiar, though, is the Arsenal buildings themselves, with their brooding darkness, their air of menace, something made all the more unnerving by the way in which the portland stone strips and columns are still utterly smoke-blackened - museum culture here has decided not to be as Disney-tidy as is usually insisted upon. The plan has guaranteed all kinds of squares and public spaces, and I've never been in a council estate precinct so empty and intimidating - literally not a soul about, all the traffic and shouting of Powis St and environs seeming miles away rather than a 3 minute walk. Finally a couple of policemen cross my path. At the end of the development, as you approach the main road again and sounds other than the birds can be heard, the obligatory public art awaits. Or, at first you think, the Men In Black loom into view, consulting with each other about some Operation. Then you realise what we actually have here: iron men, with huge neanderthal heads and hollow bodies, clipped together like the guns in the nearby museum. With war as a part of heritage, here is the luxury development as place of terror.

Poplarist Petition



May I implore you lot to sign Building Design's Petition to Save Robin Hood Gardens, Alison and Peter Smithson's beleaguered East London streets in the sky. It's set of buildings with a rather patchy history, but by a long chalk one of the most peculiar, fascinating and idealistic structures in the area. It's also directly across from Canary Wharf, so the need to resist the parasitic spread of the loft living merchant banking virus is important here, even for those who consider this a mistaken farrago of ferroconcrete and social engineering. Wrong as you would be to think such a thing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cover-ups



Wilde was, mostly, right when he said that only a fool doesn't judge by appearances. These allegedly awful album covers, recently sent me are actually mostly really good, which begs the other, less frequently asked question - what are the albums which are actually very good indeed, but marred so severely by their covers that their rightful place in the canon is forever demoted? This occurred to me recently when listening to this fantastic record and this even better one, and looking at their sleeves - both of them recovered from the bargain basement at the Music & Video Exchange - pondering whether it was really morally acceptable to enjoy the music of someone with so appalling an aesthetic sense. In fact, in the case of the second of the two covers, a group that are not that far behind Kraftwerk in terms of brilliance and cataclysmic effect ('I Feel Love' owes more to them that record than it does to Ralf & Florian) are an embarrassing, rarely dropped name, simply because their sleeve looks like it should be on the cover of a particularly crap edition of Gormenghast. Conversely, their uninteresting, proggy first record has a tremendous cover. Any other examples of these rare occasions where a record should not be judged by its cover?

Home Counties/Low Countries



Brick, for me, always stands in for things of which I disapprove, in much the same way as ‘concrete’ does for (many, many) others. It irritates me immensely when a material so plastic, so tactile, so varied as concrete is dismissed simply because it gets a bit soggy in the rain. Brick, though, as the de facto material of most (at least residential) building always seems unbelievably prosaic, leaden, a material to use when you aren’t really interested in ‘materials’. Actually, it’s even worse when the builder decides to do something a bit fancy with it, hence those Cotswoldy worn and scuffed yellow bricks used often, for some reason, for Halls of Residence. Brick, like crap Beer, seems the material of all that is drably lumpen and underambitious in Britain.



Obviously, this is complete nonsense. Anyway, in Amsterdam a couple of months ago I spent lots of time (usually while getting lost attempting to find a Chinese) admiring the intricacy and geometric beauty of mundane brickwork, and the different kinds of bricks – intense reds, browns, all in precise little slots rather than stocky lumps. This is probably a legacy of the Amsterdam school, the Socialist-Expressionist architects who remodelled the city in the 1910s and 20s, and buildings designed in what were no doubt second-rate imitations of their style are all over the place. Theirs was used by Reyner Banham as one of those alternative Modernisms that didn’t quite come off – where ornament wasn’t crime, where new forms weren’t allied with technocracy. They’re lovely, inspiring buildings, and even the lesser knock-offs are charming – such as the former Pathological Anatomical Laboratory, where I spoke (my reason for being there is reviewed here), a little engineering school whose bricks inspired this particular morphing of a Tecton kiosk.



There’s a book worth writing on the permeation of this kind of low-key, low-countries Modern into Britain as the less scary version of continental Kulturbolshewismus, as pithead baths, cricket pavilions, the odd public loo. Dudok’s remaking of stylistic antipodes De Stijl and the Amsterdam School into an aesthetic acceptable in Hendon was always more favoured than Sachlichkeit’s severity. There's more attempts to Anglicise Dutch Modernism than there are for the purer equivalents, and sometimes this leads to a deceptive familiarity. For the last 5 years I’ve lived in the vicinity of the 1938 Greenwich Town Hall, a beautiful example of this lost style – naturally, I signed on there for a couple of months. It’s an asymmetrical, reddish-brick thing, in a corner of the borough’s nice bit, ignoring the Georgiana without making a fuss, rising to a tower that would once have been the tallest thing in the area by some measure. At the top of the tower is a razor-cut window, presumably with a public observation post inside, although I doubt anyone observes from there anymore. Like any good civic monument it now houses all manner of wrongness, from a dance school to MBA courses to Alpha god-botherers; but the clock-tower is one of the least-sung, but most important kinds of building – something you see day in day out without really thinking too much about it, then gradually realise is an extraordinary little work of art.

Butskellite Barometers



‘It took some 400 bureaucrats to ‘run’ the railway in the public sector. It takes more than 4000 in the pseudo-private one (and needs at least five times the subsidy).

Although his views on architecture should be ridiculed and attacked at any given opportunity, Simon Jenkins definitely has his moments. He’s interesting for much the same reason as Roy Hattersley, as some kind of accidental barometer. It’s acknowledged much less often than reason would suggest it should, but ‘liberals’ today, whether Martin Kettle or indeed any given government of the ‘centre-left’ outside Latin America (and even a couple there) find themselves on what was once not only the Right, but the intractable, head-banging, extremist Right that was once ridiculed by treasuries and governments the world over. I don’t share Jenkins’ politics, or Hattersley’s for that matter (and I still have a huge grudge against the latter for all the primary school mispronouncings of my surname), but the way that both have stood still makes them rather fascinating figures – measures of where Butskellite orthodoxy once was, and the contempt their respective parties hold them in a reminder of how far we’ve been dragged from the ‘centre’.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Further Adventures of the Socialist Lavatory League



"A few months after my counter-attack on him, I ran into him in a pub off Tottenham Court Road. How I came to be there - I detest pubs - I cannot remember: perhaps simply to use their only civic function."
PerryAnderson, "Edward Thompson" (ta to Savonarola for this one)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aim High!



'In writing this piece, for instance, I am aware that I am frittering away the ‘free’ time which I should be using ‘responsibly’ by searching for the next vacancy.'

Terrific piece at Screened Out about New Labouring, work and non work, and what is politely described these days as 'precarity'. Still, we should bear in mind these words recently spoken at a 'Personal Development Centre' - the necessity of 'aiming for the sky, hitting the roof and actually reaching the sky'.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

If you spike me, you'll know you've been spoken to



A recently editorially rejected review of the Rodchenko and From Russia exhibitions is now up at t'measures - it's pitched at a rather lower level than most of the posts there, so no 'yes, we know' comments, because I already know that you know. The piece takes a decidedly Proletkult line on the subject of art and the undeath thereof.

Kinematograph Reminder



Daisies! Astoundingly grim early Haneke! Tea! Biscuits! Free verbiage and pretty pictures! Kino Fist, 2pm, 2 quid, this Sunday, E:vent Gallery, Teesdale Street, Bethnal Green.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh, you Poor Lamb

True That



'Whoever speaks of a socialism that must be 're-invented wholly anew' winds up inventing something very old: capitalism.'

Sebastiano Timpanero, quoted in Duncan Thompson, Pessimism of the Intellect - a History of New Left Review

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Pseudomodernist Condition



Is 'Pseudomodernism' the cultural logic of Blairism? Such is one of the possible implications of this (surprisingly good) piece in Philosophy Now, via Voyou. Although certain elements of postmodernism still have a terrible grip (students considering anything remotely politicised to be 'judgmental', general flip ahistorical cynicism, nudging and winking etc), the specific aesthetics have died a rather quiet death, particularly in architecture, the area in which the term was coined in the first place. In London the last two postmodernist buildings were finished in the mid-late 90s - the horrendous 'contextual' fortress of Porticullis House opposite Parliament, Terry Farrell's appalling Mi6 Ziggurat - and since then a Modernism of one sort or another has been dominant, perhaps because the grim statism of the aforementioned buildings left a Modernism able to do what pomo supposedly did (playfulness, attractiveness) rather better. Pseudomodernism shouldn't be regarded as some sort of victory for Modernism: instead, it was born directly out of Postmodernism. Consider the career of Terry Farrell and Partners since the 1980s. First, the allegedly witty TVAM (now apparently disused and ruined) - then buildings which conjoured up prestigious real estate out of thin air and in the process said an enormous fuck you to the public sphere: Alban Gate and Charing Cross station, which piled corporate space atop wide roads and rail platforms - and through Mi6, ending up with a very different kind of building for the security state.



Farrell's Home Office Headquarters is Pseudomodernism in excelsis. With its combination of Mendelsohn curves and Van Doesburg patterns with desperate-to-please colours (furnished, as per the Blairite fetish for the 'creative industries' by Liam Gillick) it provides a calm, ostentatiously friendly face for the bang-em-up-and-send-em-off-on-a-'rendition' brigade. Similarly, all of those new towers (named, in infantile, Jencksian style, after their alleged resemblances to Gherkins or Helter-Skelters) make none of the eclectic gestures and mashings together of different historical styles that characterised pomo - and stone has mostly been replaced by glass. Psuedomodernism is the Modernism of the city academy, a Modernism without the politics, without the utopianism, without any conception of the polis - a Modernism that conceals rather than reveals, Modernism as a shell. This return of Modernist good taste in the New Labour version of Neoliberalism has turned architectural Postmodernism, surprisingly, into a vanishing mediator. The keystones, references, in-jokes and 'fun' of 80s-90s corporate architecture were the face of neoliberalism's most naked, brutal phase, for the time when it didn't dress itself up in social concern. In the passage from Norman Tebbit to Caroline Flint, the aesthetic of social Darwinism has become cooler, more tasteful, less ostentatiously crass and reactionary, matching the rhetoric.



The elements of Pseudomodernism mentioned in Kirby's piece imply that Pseudomodernism is an operative aesthetics. If Postmodernism was spectacle as dazzlement, then the Pseudomodernist artefact makes absolutely no sense without the direct participation of the spectator. Pornography in its various forms is used, Big Brother is Warholian catatonia without the telephoned voting, and the paradigm is extended across all those talent shows that Gordon Brown thinks are such a fine example of meritocracy. Think also of MySpace and blogs as examples of forms based purely on the direct participation of the user. If there is a trace of an older Modernism here, it's a surprising one. There's a definite hint, in Pseudomodernist Operativism (it's neologism day, play along) of Brecht-Benjamin-LEF's conception of factography, the operative word, Productivism. In a piece I wrote on this a while ago (a rewritten version is in the forthcoming book) I made this point, that MySpace is a sort of bastard descendant of the 'two-way newspaper' of the Five Year Plans. As Kirby rightly points out, what has been created using these forms is mostly staggeringly vacuous and egotistical. Yet rather than using this as an excuse and taking refuge in print and the peer-reviewed journal, we should be in there using these new apparatuses, filling them with a new content rather than the usual banalities.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Consumerism Camp



May I draw your attention to Infinite Thought's recent and highly successful metamorphosis into a mordant photo-blog (London, Trieste, Ljubljana): particularly the brilliant series on North Greenwich and Bluewater. In Derek Jarman's The Last of England (clip) North Greenwich is one of the two main locations, along with (on the direct opposite side of the Thames) the vast, desolate Royal Docks. In the baffling cut-ups, montages and superimpositions Jarman builds up a post-apocalyptic picture of a zone of paramiltary activity, summary executions, atavism returning to the blasted sites left by the simultaneous demise of Fordism and Social Democracy. In one moment, the carcass of a factory beside the North Greenwich gas works looms into view while a deafening chant of 'SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL!' echoes through the chaos of the film's sound design.



North Greenwich has become a moderately successful tabula rasa - certainly the 'regeneration' is proclaimed a success in the New Labour mailout that came through my door the other day. All is subordinated to three seemingly conflicting projects: the botched proto-eco town, Millennium Village (fourth phase nearly ready, young professionals!), no less than three strip-malls, and of course the Millennial Dome, or the O2 as we must now call it. Anschutz knew what they were doing. Pack em in, lowest-common-denom, Take That, Spice Girls, Tutenkhamen, some restaurants on 'Entertainment St', bosh. The Dome hasn't become a Zone because it makes no concessions to any notion of the public sphere, won't have to beg for government funding unlike all those 2012 monsters in ten years time.



Yet around the area, unlike in the Isle of Dogs - London's most complete, most terrifying example of the total erasure of a place's past as a place of proletarian work and a place of desolation and blight - industry holds on, in strange depopulated pockets. The gasholders and silos you can see in I.T's photos, or the remants of the Angerstein industrial rail line. One photo taken in the 1890s shows the Angerstein line as a prophecy of Metropolis, its lines whizzing and criss-crossing straight into and through buildings. Now it's distinctly subordinate to the Alsop Jubilee line station processing people into the greying teflon tent, with its Grand Theft Auto deco decor. The gigantic arena has, hurrah, 'worked', but the echoes of Jarman's machineguns and stormtroopers are faint but noticeable.



What Jarman could have done with Bluewater. The actual shopping centre isn't nearly as terrifying as Sinclair and Petit's London Orbital implies: a generic large mall with bizarre psuedo-historical dressing and a baffling attenuated Crystal Palace at the front, surprising only to those who never leave Hampstead or Hackney. What makes it so unnerving is the way that the site is scooped out of an old quarry (ah, the creative re-use of industry), so that the shopper is surrounded on all sides by a motorway at an unreachable height. Bluewater is a camp waiting to happen. Suddenly Jarman's vision of a future London is quite plausible, given the right political impetus - a fusion of Belmarsh and Bluewater into a gigantic carceral space, with the cliffs around the shopping centre trimmed with razor-wire and flanked with snipers.

Reduce Yourself to a Zero



'Hmmm, interesting' is the disdainful purr from one of the thousands of quite strikingly haute bourgeois folk attending the Royal Academy's From Russia extravaganza, stood in front of two Malevich paintings. I very seldom write about Malevich, but a chance acquaintance with his work in Amsterdam seven years ago is the reason, more than anything else, that I find myself 'disinterring the Soviet avant-garde' (as someone uncharitably put it) for so much of my time. The Stedelijk museum has several rooms of Malevich's Suprematist paintings, and one morning, distinctly hungover, I wandered into them and was utterly astonished, spending what seemed like hours walking back and forth through them.



The first thing they reminded me of, curiously enough, was Peter Saville - that machine-cut precision, space, dynamism and elegance, all seemed taken from an early New Order sleeve, rather than the more obvious vice versa.* Somewhat shaken already by aforementioned overconsumption, this clarity was like a blast of cold, bright light, the work on the walls uncanny in its seeming stern rationalism and interstellar ambition. Suprematism is not at all easy to write about, this perhaps being one reason for the huge amounts of quasi-mystical verbiage that Malevich expended upon it. The fascinating moment is not the negation itself - the Black Square, the 'zero of form', etc etc, the foundation of an ever-more tedious minimalism - but what happens afterwards, this incredible freedom of shapes and planes careering across the canvas. Unlike Kandinsky's superficially similar breakthrough, it seems hard and rigorous, never painterly and expressive. It opens up an entire imaginary world, and the designers (eg: Rodchenko) who abhorred Malevich's rhetoric used and re-used his sharp lines, angles and juxtapositions.



The reason why I've never really written about Malevich is that - unlike, say, Meyerhold, Mayakovsky, Stepanova, Eisenstein, Vertov, etc etc - he's not someone that can really be taken seriously as a political-aesthetic thinker. While their forms and modes had quite precise, if occasionally deterministic purposes, there is no reason why a cup or a teapot should be designed in Suprematist style - and many were - other than that, aside from those concerns for the spiritual effect of squares and rhomboids, they looked really cool, and likewise no sensible reason why an abstract art group like his UNOVIS should organise itself like the Bolshevik Party. The Suprematists wanted to remake the world, and their new world looked quite astonishing, but purposeless. Accordingly it's absorbed into Greenbergite Art better than anything else, what with the flatness of canvas, the heroic story of Malevich the maverick, and so forth. In Ljubljana right now there's an exhibition 'by' Malevich, in which spoof letters to the Guggenheim by the deceased genius and shoddy replicas of Suprematist works are shoved together in a tired sub-NSK joke. Malevich founded a cult (his disciples were talented, but with the exception of El Lissitzky totally in his shadow), so it's not surprising that one continues to exist around him. One of Malevich's disciples is a simulacra anyway - the entire corpus of Nina Kogan is allegedly a fabrication, some astute forger utilising UNOVISites' similarity to their master to create the work of a Suprematist whose work is otherwise lost to history.




But sod all that. When I look at these paintings, these teapots, these ridiculous bits of avant-garde porcelain, I'm always shaken anew, stunned, awed, all those supplicating cliches that Great Art entails. A world remade on these lines would still rally me to any refounding of the UNOVIS Party, yet I'm frustrated that, other than for purely aesthetic reasons, I can't say precisely why I find them so dizzying.

* NB, as far as I know the only sleeve to feature a Malevich painting is the Raincoats' Odyshape, but if anyone knows any others, the comments box is below...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In (Partial) Defence of 'Sodcasting'



That being the apparent neologism for the recent phenomenon of bus passengers, usually young and in the euphemism of the day 'urban', playing music from their phones or iPods out loud rather than on headphones. In the early 80s Greg Tate bemoaned the emergence of the Walkman, not out of his (occasional) defender-of-the-funk luddism, but because it took music away from the commons and into the head of the individual listener. Rather than the soundsystem, the block party, or their commercial recuperation the 'ghetto blaster' (and what a dubious phrase that was), the tape recorder with headphones was an escape away from the streets, taking the portable bachelor-pad ethic of the car stereo and making it more mobile, and even quieter. The reasoning was, that if the sound of the street could only be heard by one person at a time, then it wasn't the sound of the street any longer.



Obviously in 21st century London there is a lack of block parties, although certainly not a lack of noise. By all means, the chap with Newham Generals blaring out at the back of the bus will be enormously irritating to most folk without interest in such things. Yet: doesn't this go against so many of the trends in how music is listened to and consumed (iPod, MySpace, etc etc)? The aforementioned public broadcaster wants everyone else to hear the music. It would actually sound more powerful, more bass-heavy, more audiophile to listen to it on the headphones rather than screeching out of a tiny, tinny speaker. It's not for his own benefit, it's for everyone else. Sure, there's a fuck-you, anti-social element to that, which is the only element anyone seems to have noticed. But isn't there also an attempt, doomed obviously to failure, to make the music public again, to have it listened to outside, in groups? You can see a hint of that when it's a group, rather than one person, listening together to the bleeps coming out of the mini-speakers over the rickety roar of the bus.

Boring Technological Request


Could anyone who knows how to do fancy things with blogger tell me how to get my links back on the corner? For some reason the post below shunted them down the bottom - I tried saving then deleting it, then as soon as I posted it up again (without the image and all) they disappeared again. Very irritating....(nb this is why the comments on the last post have disappeared, which is a shame as they were good and non-annoying comments.) Update - it seems to be back now, but what I'd really like to do is shift the post text into that blank space on the other side, which is just sat there pointlessly, and change the links so that each new section doesn't make the links disappear into the depths. Anyone...?

Deserving/Undeserving


I hope we can all be agreed at least that this is absolutely fucking grotesque - the horrible return of the Victorian distinction between deserving and undeserving poor, dressed up in true NewLab style as social concern. What exactly this arbeit-macht-wohnen position will mean when this recession kicks in is a particularly moot point. Anyway, for the moment I'll let Oscar have the last word on the subject.

The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table? They should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it...

No: a poor man who is ungrateful, unthrifty, discontented, and rebellious, is probably a real personality, and has much in him. He is at any rate a healthy protest. As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but one cannot possibly admire them. They have made private terms with the enemy, and sold their birthright for very bad pottage. They must also be extraordinarily stupid.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Boredom, Boredom, B'dum B'dum



Two pieces from the Kino Fist zine on Fashion are up at the Fist Site; a piece of my own on Liquid Sky and Soviet Amerikanizm, which rehashes a fair few familiar riffs but has some nice pictures and the odd snappy formulation; and another rather excellent one by Zach Campbell of Elusive Lucidity, and another on kitsch, fashion and nudity. The zine also featured this particularly lurid old extract from Citta Violenta, a piece by esteemed fashion historian/theorist Elizabeth Wilson and the reprintings you see on the site (Benjamin, Barthes).



As IT mentions, the next one is on BOREDOM, in which we'll be showing Vera Chytilova's astonishing Czech avant-garde classic of accidentally insurrectionary listlessness Daisies (my pennorth from a while ago), Haneke's Seventh Continent, plus whatever cartoons or shorts we end up thinking of (suggestions encouraged as ever). After that there's one on Work featuring the mighty Blue Collar, possibly followed by education, seediness and gentrification. Papers, pieces, images, anything appreciated for any of these, but especially for the next one to IT...The deadline for submissions is: Sunday 17th February. Please send everything to infinitethought[at]hotmail.co.uk. Any questions about submissions to me as well.

Eltham Expressionism



Eltham, despite the palace, isn’t high on anyone’s list of places to visit, for fairly obvious reasons. Anyone who does find themselves there might be advised to wander down Middle Park Avenue to St Saviour’s Church, one of London’s few examples of proper rough interwar Expressionism, roaring out of the mock tudor timidity like the clumps of stone that rise out of the corners of Scandinavian motorways. Nairn’s London sums it up thus: ‘every bit of it seems to be impelled and inevitable’. Photo courtesy of Paul Dyer.

Good Morning, Jobseekers



Another job centre course, this one a little less insufferable than ‘Jobseeker Mandatory Activity’ – no ‘motivational’ speaking here, but computers, newspapers and files and noticeboards full of jobs, which at least has the decency of recognising that evangelism is not a solution to unemployment. There is, however, one little catch. At the end of each weekly session the ‘jobseekers’ have to sign and pop in an envelope five ‘speculative letters’ to send to prospective employers. Naturally these are given directly to us to photocopy. There’s an object lesson here in how cynicism actually blinds you to the fast one being pulled on you. Everyone sits there, either loudly moaning, refusing to turn off their mobiles or (mostly, including me) staring at their shoes, and accordingly all seem to miss the significance of the following paragraph, although it gets explained to us in detail. The grammatical infelicity should be the least of our worries:

‘In these competitive times, any help available to obtain employment is most welcome. To this end, may I alert you to the Government’s work trial initiative which you may be interested to know, that if you have a vacancy available you may be able to offer me a trial period to confirm my suitability for the position on offer at no payroll cost to you.’



As a compulsory element of this course, then, everyone is offering to work for their dole. And nobody even seems to notice. I didn't, until I looked at it a few hours later. This isn’t really the fault of the staff (I got given a partly justified bollocking on the comments of my last post on these matters for having a go at those who have to do this for a living), who make it all pretty clear; but the result of how the allegedly savvy, smart cynicism of contemporary Londoners actually has the opposite effect to the one intended. Nobody’s listening, so nobody notices what's happening under their nose.