'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Suzy Kendall & The School Of Chicago

At the beginning of Up The Junction (the softer feature film of 1968, not Ken Loach's raw TV drama of a few years before) Suzy Kendall makes a symbolic journey, walking across Battersea Bridge from her parents' home in Chelsea - all Daddy's Jags and Home Counties elegance - to her new life south of the river in a white working class slum. It's a journey from one world to another, across an inner border made outward and visible in the span of the bridge and the bitter worm of the Thames sloughing its way down to the Pool past Wren's serene hospital and the gasworks. It's also a journey I made in reverse for many years when I drove over the river each morning to work in Heathrow. Even from newly flush Thatcherite Battersea to impossibly plutocratic Chelsea it was still a journey across symbolic boundaries, the sort of frontiers without physical walls but all the more solid for being grounded in education, politics, attitude and identity. Cities are full of them, unmarked but always acknowledged and felt. My turf. My space.
But it's a journey I won't be making again. Not just because I've left London long since, but because the other morning a large red 'C' adorned the junction of Cheyne Walk & Beaufort Gardens where you come off the bridge: Mayor Ken's newly enlarged congestion charge zone has arrived and now sits plumb across the route I used to take through Chelsea and Fulham to Earls Court and the intoxicating road to freedom that is the elevated section of the M4. So I won't be going back there no more, as the Bluesman sings: a border, intangible but absolute stands across my very own rat run: I'll need to find another way to blast off in pursuit of the escape velocity needed to slip the surly bonds of the M25.
The locals are predictably incensed by the perceived inconvenience and injustice, but like many imaginariy divisions, congestion charging forces you to re-assess your ideas of the world around you. Introduced by Red Ken, the people's choice, but dreamt up by Milton Friedman of the Chicago School of Economics. After 15 years of chasing material success in South London, my psychological geography of the city I once loved with a passion is now altered by a secondhand idea of Margaret Thatcher's favourite economist.
Suzy Kendall
Milton Friedman
UPDATE: To give this abstract rumination a human face, here's portraits of both Ms Kendall in her glory and Professor Friedman in his dotage.
I leave it to your imaginations to decide who you'd rather have sitting in the passenger seat of your Jag as you drive over Battersea Bridge to Chelsea to promenade down the Kings Road on a summer's evening blissfully careless of the secret divisions of your very own city.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Eleanor said...

Dude, you are smokin' today; this is a great little piece of writing - i enjoyed it very much. Especially the "bitter worm" part.

1/3/07 1:39 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Eleanor - too kind, too kind: I really must get those photos sorted out . .

1/3/07 9:08 am  
Blogger Ray & Gill said...

Ah Suzy Kendall – now she conjures up a few memories! Unlike many of you I saw this at the cinema when it came out. Following hard on the heels of Carol White in Poor Cow it was almost too much for a teenage boy.

1/3/07 10:17 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Ray - like you, as a teenager I never thought that it would happen with me & a girl from Clapham . . . you will of course recall that The Battersea Bardot starred in the TV adaptation of Up The Junction a couple of years before the film . . .

2/3/07 2:30 pm  
Blogger the other cold one said...

Also including the Thames and M4 as cross-refences for invisible cultural divides, walk from Windsor Castle down the hill, across the footbridge into Eton. If you continue along the B3022 or Slough road, and under the motorway, you leave the picture postcard tourist haven, and enter Slough via Chalvey - definitely an area unmolested by tourists... This has always struck me as a heavy dose of reality check in the years I lived in the area.

2/3/07 6:25 pm  

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