Friday, November 18, 2005

Time Capsules

What is it with Londoners and defunct tube stations? What makes many of us want to squint through the windows of a Central Line train to see if we can catch a glimpse of the tiled platform of long abandonned British Museum Station or perhaps even its disorientated Egyptian spectre in loincloths.

Surfer even went to a rave in the then recently mothballed Aldwych station. There's said to be a ghost there too - an actress from the theatre demolished to make way for the station that apparently missed her last curtain call.

I guess it's the frisson of the time capsule effect we're seeking in this skin-shedding postmodern world. I found an unusually well-preserved pocket of old time a few years ago when V and I visited my childhood home in Eaton Square. When we moved out at the end of 1985 the Grosvenor estate already had plans to eviscerate the building which had never fully recovered from the German bomb which landed only a few yards away in Hobart Place on top of the poor vicar of St Peter's. They were waiting for each of the remaining tenants to leave, or die. Our neighbour, Lord Boothby, had taken one last swig of gin and climbed in the cab to the great upper chamber in the sky. He was survived by his wife Wanda and her two shitzus, and they weren't budging.

In the end something like twelve years passed. Aware that the door to our flat had hardly been re-opened since the day we locked it behind us I contacted the Estate and asked if I could visit the flat one last time with V before the wreckers and the modernisers moved in.

It turned out to be a bizarre experience. A poster of an astronaut that I had brought back from the Soviet Union had peeled away from the back of my bedroom door exposing the hide-out it had found the day I packed up the rest of my cachivaches. Outside in the corridor we had to step over one of my school plimsoles lying there accusingly, underside-up. All the wallpaper and fittings were the same as when we left, dating back to our last major redecoration at the end of the 70s. There was even a cupboard in the kitchen full of old cans of food.

It's all gone now, gutted and re-filled from the inside with some of the most plushly espensive des-rezzes in the Duke's portfolio. They even built over the old garden (well, yard really) at the rear.

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