Iain Sinclair’s farewell to London

4032Iain Sinclair at The Guardian:

A voice. “Are you on the street?” Reverberating footfall in the underpass. And an urgent call demanding acknowledgement. He hustled after me, swearing, smacking a fist into his open palm. We moved, pursuer and pursued, in steady bank holiday drizzle, down a slippery, stone-flagged ramp towards the laby-rinth of borough engineer Sidney Little’s reinforced concrete subterranea: a buried swimming pool, a vault to take cars away from the promenade, a marine walkway pressed against a wall of broken bottles. Like a reliquary for beachside drinking schools, the thirsty ones at the end of the land.

Panoramic sea windows, lacking glass, are set in expectation of invasions still to come. (Between 1940 and 1944, Little had a sideline, working with the Admiralty on the construction of a concrete Mulberry harbour for the D-day landings.) Hastings in the 1930s, in the borough engineer’s pomp, was a punt at the better way: sanctioned leisure time for all, seasonal tourism as a benefit. And smooth rail connections to the capital, the Smoke. Open roads, carving through the humped folds of the chalk downs, beneath the outlines of mythical giants, were celebrated in collectable posters by the finest artists and designers. Cars were not yet weapons of choice, primed for mindless assault on the crowd, those who are privileged to walk freely in the city.

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