Saturday, 19 March 2016

All the world's a Globe

The London I used to know from my youthful ramblings, twenty - goodness me, is it really twenty? - years ago is, slowly but surely, giving way to a polished, sandblasted, homogenised version of its former self. For example the old Globe Inn in Borough Market (which, to be honest, I never went in twenty years ago, because it looked far too scary) has literally been sandblasted to a bright London-brick yellow, which looks both clean and yet also pretend, like a film set's painted plaster wall, masquerading as the real thing.

This is a little ironic, I suppose, as I recall coming across the filming of the first Bridget Jones film, which was being made here in 2000, and discovering that a completely fake set of railway stairs had been inserted under the arches beside the pub (in the flat above which is where Bridget Jones lived, in the film). Even then, the fake stairs had art-department painted bird droppings and graffiti to make it look authentic. At the same time I am reluctant to be unduly critical of the motivation to reclaim or repurpose otherwise near no-go areas for general use.

This area, for example, used to be grotty, smell of rotting food waste from the market, and be best walked through at a reasonably swift pace after dark. It's just that the edges have been  knocked off, smoothed over, and sanitised. It seems improbable that the "characters" of old - Jeffrey Bernard, Peter O'Toole and the like - would thrive in this cleaner, gentrified, non-smoking version of London, but then perhaps their time was an anomaly - a symptom of their own post-WWII era.

I get the sense that there's a tussle going on, between the forces of regeneration and the original residents and users of the space. During the week, between 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., Borough Market is still, as its name suggests, a real wholesale market, selling fruit and vegetables, as it has done since at least 1276 (or maybe since 1014, according to the market itself, "and probably much earlier").

From Wednesday to Saturday, however, it also becomes home to stallholders, selling a wide range of food and drink from across the country and abroad (inevitably, there are a lot of "artisan" products and producers), and it is a destination in its own right for foodies and visitors after interesting tastes. Quite what the early morning vendors make of the later tenants, I don't know, but it would be interesting to see the handover between the two.

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