London landmarks

‘Lizzie Gravatt. None cuter’

My wife was a soft touch at a charity event at Battersea Dogs Home and now there’s some corner of a foreign field that will be forever American. Our heavily in-bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is not dead yet (not quite), but already she has been honoured in the grounds of a London landmark. Not bad for a dog of little brain from Illinois.

Lizzie is not the only Gravatt to be immortalized with an inscription. A small plaque embedded in the paving at the back of our garden contains an epitaph for the ‘never forgotten’ Nibbles. (I thought it was Honey that was buried under our patio, but when I checked for this blog I saw it was the otherwise forgotten Nibbles.)

I pass Battersea Dogs Home every day on my cycle commute and every day I wonder what possessed my wife, not a woman of little brain, to donate ¬£50 to honour our dog. She recently told me that if she dies before me (unlikely given the rate at which they are currently culling London cyclists) she would like me to arrange for a plaque on a bench in Battersea Park. I can’t begin to understand why Ros wants her name on a park bench, but I have long learnt not to try to understand my wife. Similarly, I don’t understand the universe. It must end somewhere… but when it ends, what’s beyond it?… and so it can’t end… but it can’t just go on forever. It does my head in. The only solution is not to think about it at all. Just accept it, however incomprehensible. She wants her life to be summed up with a plaque on a bench. Fine. The universe never ends. Fine. She has paid ¬£50 for an inscription for our dog. Fine. Also, incidentally, pretty fucking weird.

When I was a young boy, dreaming of greatness, I used to wonder how my name might be imprinted on the world. Little did I imagine that it would be through a series of signs in South London in memory of a hamster, a woman of mystery and a Cavalier King Spaniel.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home recently had a campaign to re-position the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a cuddly pet. ‘Staffies – they’re softer than you think’. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are soft. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not.

Soft dog

Soft dog

If Battersea Dogs and Cats Home think¬†Staffordshire Bull Terriers are soft, there’s no way I’m going to stop anywhere near there. If I get a puncture outside that place I’m going to jettison the bike and run.

Immediately after the dog’s home, the place of the inflatable pig.

My commute is close to being a journey between one previously moribund power station that is enjoying a new lease of life and another. Knowing both my wife and business partner have subscribed to this blog, I should make it clear that I am referring to Battersea Power Station and the Tate Modern.

After years of neglect, Battersea Power Station has gone slogan crazy – ‘Massive icon. Intimate place’, ‘Live original’, ‘Powered by People’, ‘Icon seeks icons’, ’30 years in the waiting’. Festooned with the kind of vacuous messages that have given Ros and myself a comfortable life and funded our children’s education, the Power Station appears to have a bit of an identity crisis. I’m excited by the prospect of Frank Geahry designed buildings in the neighbourhood, but fear that if the signage is anything to go by the whole thing could up as a dinner for the residents next door.

The gaudy over-the-top commercialisation may simply be the Power Station’s way of welcoming its new neighbours on the other side. Fruit and veg is being replaced by hamburgers. The New Covent Garden Fruit and Veg market in Nine Elms is about to be colonised by Americans. Unable to protect themselves from an increasingly hostile world in Belgrave Square, the Americans are building a fortress of an embassy on my bicycle route. In future I will not only have to navigate my way past killer trucks and unwanted Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but now also potential terrorists.

In a special ‘two for the price of one big bomb’ offer, next up past fortress America is M15. I love the fact that the Secret Service building is so ostentatious. I read a profile on Julian Cope in which he explained that he dressed the way he does (described in the article as “huge, sleeveless black leather jacket, thigh-length black leather boots, jodhpurs, black gloves, shades, menacing military cap, blonde hair streaking down his back and a beard that could be made of barbed wire. He looks like the biker from hell”) because he wants “to be almost unnoticed”. MI5 similarly seem to think that they can hide away inconspicuously in a big fuck-off building.

I’ve recently discovered that it’s possible to cycle along the river on the stretch from Battersea Power Station to Lambeth Palace. The two benefits if this are 1) it avoids the Vauxhall Cross roundabout, which is fast becoming the most dangerous spot for cyclists in London, and 2) with its spectacular riverside views down the Thames of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, it is beautiful.

View from a bike

View from a bike

It reminds me of the cycle path along Lake Michigan in Chicago, but with one significant difference. In Chicago there is a clearly marked section for cyclists, so helping separate us from pedestrians. Such a solution is far too simplistic for London town planners who, never to miss an opportunity to make life difficult for cyclists, provide us with the option of either running the gauntlet with the lorries of Vauxhall Cross or getting shouted at by pedestrians who understandably, but incorrectly, believe that they shouldn’t have to share their space with the dregs of society.

The final furlong of my journey takes me past Lambeth Palace, the Imperial War Museum and the back of the Old Vic theatre before ending up at the converted Victorian warehouse that is now our office.

    Gerry Miller
    2014-07-31 15:35:15
    "Two interesting journeys: one through Battersea and the other through Life. Battersea has the more defined geography. The lower part of the road should be named Spook Alley. Speaking of the Universe, I visited a BMW service place there recently and thought I had entered a building site on another planet. The Americans have never been sensitive to locals, except in Peoria. I like the bench idea a lot. It promises respite and even pleasure to bums (both kinds). How many of the brands we have worked on can deliver that? I thought so."

    Mia Kennedy
    2014-07-07 21:45:37
    "My we laughed. I used to have a hamster called Nibble. He was much loved, but never had a plaque."

    richard beevers
    2014-07-05 11:27:18
    "Always great to get a shot of Gravatt wit and wisdom! Hope you are well Simon. Richard"

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