R.A.K. Mason, "Latter-Day Geography Lesson"
 


2012 Renzo Piano gets a frantic call.

The scaffold and cranes are down, the champagne is on a tray and Mayor Ken Livingstone is ready to top out the structure. The hotel's in place, the luxury flats, the offices filled up with TFL staff, the gym, the pool, the shopping centre ready to do battle.

'Boss - don't know how it happened but we've screwed up. The guy in charge of transport has forgotten to put in the high speed lift to the top. The shaft has been cannibalised for pipework. There is only the goods lift.'

This is a metaphor for London in 2006. If we stay stuck in our mostly 50 year old condition with our tube and roads, then imagine the clashes between commuters and Olympic visitors six years from now, during the Olympics.

Gerald Grosvenor is building new offices and flats, the Queen's Crown Estate is rebuilding a large part of the east side of their Regent Street.

We might expect their advisors to give London a lead. After all they are risking a billion or two.

To the contrary, how many read Wheels of Fortune? I financed it.
                                                  


LATTER-DAY GEOGRAPHY LESSON

This, quoth the Eskimo master
  was London in English times :
step out a little faster
you two young men at the last there
the Bridge would be near on our right hand
and the Tower near where those crows stand --
we struck it you'll recall in Gray's rhymes :
this, quoth the Eskimo master
was London in English times.

This, quoth the Eskimo master
  was London in English days :
beyond the hill they called Clapham
boys that swear Master Redtooth I slap 'em
I dis-tinct-ly heard--you--say--Bastard
don't argue : here boys, ere disaster
overtook her, in splendour there lay
a city held empires in sway
and filled all the earth with her praise :
this quoth the Eskimo master
was London in English days.

She held, quoth the Eskimo master
  ten million when her prime was full
from here once Britannia cast her
gaze over an Empire vaster
even than ours : look there Woking
stood, I make out, and the Abbey
lies here under our feet you great babby
Swift-and-short do--please--kindly--stop--poking
Your thumbs through the eyes of that skull.

                                                                                      1924