Crystal Palace – it’s a suburb, Station, park, and football team, And a memory to a time When this nation still could dream. Once a product of Empire, A palace to capture its roar – Now just a flat-topped hill In the Republic of Elsinore. Straddling boroughs, pumping fountains, Soaring towers, glass for miles. Flames across eight counties And her spell no more beguiles.
“No more beguiles” – that sounds Victorian – Half vers libre, half Tudor sonnet. Flirting with jazz and television, Yet still bedecked in her bustle and bonnet. She was no Bauhaus, no mere function – Cast iron crockets encrusted her shell – For all her prefab industry, She always wore her baubles well. Ah, she’s gone now, like her dinosaurs, She’s of her time and place, Though her place of course is the one she named – You cannot say she leaves no trace.
A snail upon the concrete, half way high,
Just scaling up the slabs to the broken-bottle prism
That shards into the crown that lacerates the sky –
It’s breaking up the straight lines, a bauble on the brutalism.
This snail is still there, weeks later, its shell becoming its coffin. I wonder if it were poisoned by the concrete ?
I went on down to the Tate today
To see the pompous, macho art –
Art that’s oh so very clever,
Art that’s far more smug than smart.
It hates so much to be attractive,
Loves to interrupt the brain –
Wants to make the world more ugly,
Wants to dare us to complain.
But most of all, this art is terrified,
It’s scared of beauty and of ornament –
Frightened of a crafter’s gentle pride,
And what to do once all its shock is spent.
But most of all, it’s frightened we might think it gay,
And desp’rat’ly it butches up its empty walls.
But I really loved my trip down to the Tate today –
By far the best of spots to view St Paul’s.
On the Inability of many Victorians
to adequately append to their Dissertations
such short and succinct titular Benamings
as would better serve their weighty Publications
without exposure to crucial Details
of sundry Devices and Plots thus delineated
by which the presumed Reader is disprivileged
and their subsequent Enpleasurement undersated.
The rich live in houses, the poor in cells,
This is how classes are classed –
From Kensington Gore to Tunbridge Wells
The best were designed in the past.
The poor get newer and concreted hells
That are decomposing fast.
Of course, the new could be just like the old,
But then they would all get far too bold –
So keep them ugly, keep them cold,
And build them not to last.
The trouble with writers, back in that day,
They never had chances to finish the job –
Just splash on the whitewash, any old way,
And promise and short-change and rob.
Too many loose-ends and threpenny warts,
Too many set-ups with no second coat –
Till Misery’s suddenly out of his sorts,
And the author is slashing our throats.
I came for satire, complexity, and human drama – but left with cyphers and a lecture…
When I rail against the bland sterility of modern style,
Then this is not the antidote I seek !
These cut-and-pasted noddy-boxes miss the measure by a mile,
With all the mumbled sorries of the meek.
Sure, their bricks are red, their roofs are pitched, their gables high and wide,
But rooms are small and low, whose renders flake.
Windows (though they’re never sashed) may these days keep the warmth inside,
But why must all their glazing bars be fake ?
Of course, compared with houses of the past, they have a lot to offer –
Plumbing, carpets, wires and insulation –
But still they’re easy prey for ev’ry Brutalist and Bauhaus scoffer,
As these clones have spawned across the nation.
But worst of all, these mega-builders have the blueprints on their books
Of many variations on the theme –
And yet, in any field, they seem so terrified to mix the looks
Incase there’s fewer profits left to cream.
And oversighting councillors, with targets jacked and budgets slashed,
Are powerless or spineless to allay.
And so this new Jerusalem is jerry-built and pebble-dashed –
And yet, still beats a high-rise any day !
Never mind the drama queen
Who’s posing by the railing,
As camp as a jellybean,
Just wibbly-wobbly wailing.
Never mind the sky of red
Or bay of blue-macabre –
Like Jupiter is overhead,
As streaky as the harbour.
Never mind if we can’t find
What makes the screamer crazed –
The couple coming up behind
Seem perfectly unfazed.