Saturday, 21 May 2016

"An event near you"

There's this ludicrous thing they do on Facebook at the moment where they inform you that one of your friends "is attending an event near you." I'll often dutifully click on the event, assuming that, by "near me" they might mean at Jackson's Lane or up at the Gatehouse in the village. Sadly, I think Facebook might need to reappraise their concept of "near" when it comes to London. This morning's "near" was Highbury corner. Yesterday's was the Central School of Speech and Drama. I get Camden, Angel, Hackney... I've even had the West End!

It's curious, isn't it, how concepts of distance change depending on where you are in the word? As a young man I would regularly travel the 15 miles into Northampton without blinking. If I were still living in Higham and someone told me a friend was attending an event in Northampton, I might even contact them and ask if they wanted to meet for lunch... Unless of course they were from Higham as well, in which case they'd think I was mad!

London, however, is a curiously compartmentalised place and the places Londoners consider "close" are reserved for those within a few stops on the same tube line, or areas within very very easy walking distance. Traffic is always so bad that it often takes a huge amount of time to get pretty much anywhere. If you take a bus you have to factor in a possible change of driver, or some kind of altercation which normally ends with the driver switching his engine off!

Highbury is probably only three miles from Highgate, but it takes 45 minutes to reach. Bizarrely, most journeys in London take about an hour door to door. I don't quite know how that works out, but I think most of us factor in an hour for all journeys and are pleasantly surprised if we've time for a coffee at the other end. Imagine how far you'd get if you travelled for an hour out of Northampton? And everyone wonders why Londoners are all so grumpy.

Speaking of Highbury, I had to travel there today, on a crawling 43 bus, surrounded by hot, sweaty people, men with burst blood vessels in their eyes, and a crowd of adults with learning disabilities who didn't quite have the same sense of special awareness that one might normally expect on public transport.

The meeting all but shattered any hopes I've had of doing this installation I've been trying to plan for the last few months. The quote I'd initially been given trebled as I sat talking to the chap, the colour all but draining from my face as my hopes were dashed! I don't feel too upset. There comes a point when you have to acknowledge that an artistic endeavour is destined to line the pockets of everyone but yourself, so when the hugely inflated quotes start rolling in, you end up wondering why you're not trying to develop something with a far greater personal artistic legacy. I asked an editor in Newcastle for a quote, which arrived when I was on the bus on the way home from the disastrous meeting. It was so high that the cost of VAT on the bill alone was within £100 of the quote I'd had from a editor in London for the entire job! What I hate with a passion in my industry is greed. People trying to pull the wool over fellow creative people's eyes. If you want to fleece someone, fleece a banker!

In a way it's a relief that the project is over. It would have been a huge amount of work on my part, with, as I say, almost no financial reward. Letting go, however, is always a bit painful. Still, as I say whenever I'm talking to young people about careers in the business, being in the arts is all about falling over, taking a moment to register the pain and then dusting yourself off and getting on with the next mad mad-cap idea.

We watched an old episode of Top of the Pops this evening which featured Legs and Co dancing to The Birdie Song, with a curious half-time Scottish jig, whilst the audience did the familiar dance we all learned when we were about eight! It was some of the worst telly I've ever watched. The song is interminable. It goes on and on. Kid Jensen, who was presenting the show, literally didn't give a shit and introduced it as The Tweet Song and then, at the end, the Bird Song.

I'm now watching a programme about the EMI record label, which makes me wish I'd been born thirty years earlier!

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