Category Archives: London

View from my room.

In a week I’ll start my second year at UCL.

This means it’s a year since I packed my books, clothes and other miscellaneous shit and zipped down the M1 to start a new chapter in my life.

We’re all aware that time goes up about 3 gears for each year we’re alive, but this one has been extraordinarily fast. I remember vividly opening the door to my room in student halls and smiling as I took in the space that was to be home.  From my window I could see the back of Euston Road O’Neills, but beyond that stood St. Pancras in all its majesty.

It’s interesting the relationships we build with the spaces around us. St. Pancras, more than any other building in London to me, symbolises coming home.  Stepping out of King’s Cross after a trip home or to Newcastle, the clock tower and gothic facade of the hotel is the first thing to which I look, the first assurance that London has still been here while I’ve been away.

In a lot of instances throughout my first year, the St. Pancras clock has been my timekeeper, a quick glance out of my window would tell me to get my arse in gear, grab my rucksack and head over to tutorial, or that there was an essay deadline in a couple of hours.

Not to romanticise the whole thing too much, but I even had a favourite time of day to look at that clock face. It was afternoon in Winter, getting later as the seasons moved through Spring into Summer. As the Sun took its place low in the western sky, the clock face of St. Pancras that faced my room would glint in the sunlight, shining beautifully and proudly.

The beauty and stability of this sight is a contrast with the otherwise dull, loud, constant movement of the Euston Road, and that served to exaggerate and embellish the loveliness all the more. I sympathise with John Betjeman…

“What the Londoner sees in his mind’s eye is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”

My halls were on the corner of Judd Street – it’s not all that gloomy, but he makes the point better than I ever could manage.

So if you’re ever walking along Euston Road late on a sunny afternoon, look eastward towards the stations and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

It’s nice, honest.

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For anyone unfamiliar with what I was just badly describing

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The Great Gatsby at The King’s Head, Islington

Not too long ago my partner and I went to see a musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby. This is a book I studied at A Level and like many things you study at school it’s quite close to my heart.  So much so actually that I feel a bit precious about it. I’ve already written a prissy post for a friend’s blog about Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming A-List-3D-money-spinning-garishly-ridiculous-looking adaptation.

A musical adaptation, then, is a very, very risky move. So often musicals strip literature to the bare bones of story, sucking out the real substance – things go from being literature to skeletal narrative with some shit songs thrown in (and I like musicals).

Nonetheless, The King’s Head theatre pub has a pretty commendable reputation and independent theatre is always worth supporting so I booked tickets, hoping for the best.

Cutting to the chase, it was very good.  The small theatre was heaving and the atmosphere heady – it was a sweltering evening and the humid room channeled the feel of the dog days of a New York summer. The music I found to be very fitting. The Times reviewer said it needed to be truer to the jazz age roots of the work but I found the pieces perfectly measured to the tone and feel of the story.

A small cast made for actors doubling as musicians, and there were fewer of what you might call “showtunes” than in your average musical and much more dialogue. Whole sections were lifted from the novel and this is no bad thing. Fitzgerald’s prose is so poetic and measured, to not use it would be to bastardise the thing.

One of the most striking scenes was Wilson’s descent into murderous madness following Myrtle’s death.  The actor sat on stage plucking eerily at a cello describing his suspicions, the notes he played gradually became more unhinged as he did. It was haunting and beautifully directed.

There were no weak performances and, crucially for me, Meyer Wolfsheim’s voice was delivered with the Yiddish inflections that it needed. I still remember 30 minutes before my exam reading passages from the novel entirely in a New York-Jewish accent in order to memorise them. Takes all sorts, I guess.

Crucially, the production stayed true to Fitzgerald’s vision. This was a paired down affair, as one reviewer said, the staging reflected “the sadness behind the parties”. By the looks of it, this adaptation is the perfect antithesis to what Lurhmann’s appears to be – in other words, good.

London Film Festival

Throughout October I’ll be working at the BFI Southbank during the London Film Festival (hold tight for blogposts during the festival) but this post is more of an “I’M EXCITED” than anything else. Let’s be honest, it might also be a tiny bit of a humble brag, but it’s okay because I’ve admitted it.

At any rate. I figured I’d give my picks of some of the cool films that are going to be shown while the festival is on for any interested parties. It’s a great time to visit the BFI, there will be so much going on and it’s open to the public so there’s no excuse not to have a mooch.

Amour dir. Michael Haneke (Trailer)

Movie buffs will already be well aware of this film. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year and follows an ageing French couple whose relationship is tested when the wife suffers a damaging stroke. It doesn’t look like a barrel of laughs, but undoubtedly great cinema.

Blancanieves dir. Pablo Berger (Trailer)

Hot on the heels of The Artist’s success. This silent, black and white, Spanish adaptation of Snow White will surely be popular.  Expect fantastical imagery and a healthy dosage of gothic strangeness.  I’m trying hard not to mention a certain director who notably collaborates with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter. If you like him – go and see this.

Argo dir. Ben Affleck (Trailer)

It’s not all auters and arty shit!! Ben Affleck, always Hollywood’s bridesmaid, never its bride, directs films! Remember The Town?! And you can see this one at the festival! It’s a true story about a CIA mission to get six American hostages out of revolutionary Iran after their embassy is stormed. Ben Affleck grew a beard for it and everything. I’m sure that means he’s serious.

 

There are a whole host of other great films and events going on other than this teeny little taster. Look at the link at the top of the post and see for yourself! It will be awesome! Go, London! I implore you.