Those around me will never really understand why I see poetry in ruined brutalist buildings - they won't grasp that, for me, they represent a world and a way of organising society which for all its faults, and it had many, shared the benefits of new developments much more evenly around the populace than is the case today, where the Olympics coming to somewhere like Portland (or, indeed, east London) would have been a genuinely public project. All told, a strangely fitting backdrop to swimming ten lengths for the first time in eight years. I'll go back. But I hope the backwash of new wealth doesn't take the surroundings beyond the means of their people. The pub timebomb forecast fifteen years ago has undoubtedly gone off, and I can't say I'm too sad. But we don't have to throw the communality baby out with the insular bathwater. A fitting sign-off for the hundredth post.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
There are still bits of Portland I've never seen in fifteen years. The old Navy leisure centre, five years younger than me, has a slightly run-down functionalism I find rather appealing - because however uninteresting it may seem, better that than the pseudo-opportunities of the Olympics, a stone's throw away less than three years hence, whose benefits to those outside a narrow nouveau riche are, at best, debatable (and it has the same clock as the first swimming pool I ever went to, back on the Estuary, which gave me pleasant 1988 flashbacks). The whole of Castletown has a sense of multiple worlds in collision - pub after pub closing, the new luxury flats going up in the old sports field, dangerous staircases still standing in the back streets, memories of the unending quasi-nightmare of the old hospital that part of me nonetheless now misses, the doomed grandiosity of the old Navy flats redesigned for the new elite as a 1950s liner directly facing the brutalist shell of those as yet unconverted, a general sense that this place - like the political state of the UK itself - is in a state of flux that will soon be decisively decided in favour of a certain narrowness that poses dangerously as "democratisation". The final impression you get is that, while the old Portland was probably unsustainable, especially once the Navy had left (just after I came), it should have a future less neoliberal and more equal than this one.