First of all, my apologies for the break in posting. Normal service has hopefully been resumed.
One of those pieces of information that you pick up along the way is that smell is the sense most intimately connected with memory. That, walking down the street, you can smell something that you haven't smelt in ages, and it will trigger very strong memories (for me, it's the smell of burning turf. The first time I smelt it was when I was eleven and my family moved to Ireland. Everyone in the midlands burns turf rather than coal, and it has a very specific smell. The scent takes me straight back to early winter).
However, I maintain that the sense of smell has nothing on that other, far more potent sense. That of advertising.
If advertising were a sense. Which it isn't. But still, bear with me.
Any time I see one of those '100 greatest adverts', 'Greatest adverts of all time', 'Worst adverts of all time' kind of shows, I can't help myself. I end up watching it for hours, and reliving as much as I can do.
It doesn't matter whether it's Angus Deayton's back catalogue, or old car adverts. There's something about them that I find far more nostalgic than anything else that I watch.
Its one thing that I miss about not using VHS as a format any more. It's not the same using Sky Plus, because I don't keep things as long. If it's something I want to keep, I'll now pick it up on DVD. One of the best things about this is that the shows don't have adverts. Because, when you're trying to watch television, adverts suck.
One of the worst things about it is that you don't have adverts on DVD. Having people try to sell you something in return for entertainment is irritating, but the second the advert stops being shown, it becomes a reminder of a very specific time and place. It's very potent as far as memory goes.
It doesn't need to be the product that's being sold, or the strange spectacle of seeing people before they were famous. It can be just the film stock used, or the style of cameras at the time. Everything is clean and crisp these days, and that's just not as evocative as looking back at dated footage.
This is what I was talking about with VHS, and I daresay I'm far from alone in this. Whenever I watched a TV show or a movie that I'd kept on video for a long time (normally marked with 'Chris's tape. DO NOT TAPE OVER', and a vague attempt to use the numbers that came with the video slips as a filing system, as if I was ever going to stick to that when I can't even keep my DVDs in alphabetical order), one of the things I enjoyed most was watching the adverts that were on whenever I'd taped them.
That said, I can rarely remember what they're for. I can recognise the brands that the better adverts are normally selling (Guinness, for example), but I can rarely remember other ones, no matter how memorable the advert itself, I couldn't even begin to tell you what they were selling.
Reading that paragraph above again, I should probably clarify my use of the term 'better adverts'. An advert can be a thing of beauty, a brilliant movie in the space of thirty seconds - but if you can't remember what the product is, then it has failed utterly in terms of being an advert.
This sense of immediate recollection, transporting you back to a certain time and place is why it's so weird to watch that 'Milky Bar' advert (you know the one - 'The red car and the blue car had a race'). I can't watch it without expecting it to be followed by the adverts ending and me being able to watch either 'Grotbags' or 'Fun House'.
Had they decided to revamp the advert completely (as opposed to tweaking a couple of the lines for legal reasons) it wouldn't have hit that transportative sense of nostalgia in quite the same way. And it must have been tempting - animation is not expensive these days, and even a CGI version would have probably been quite easy to do. But for some reason, they went with the hand-coloured version, and I'm delighted.
I'm also quite pleased, since I was a child during a great time for adverts. The poor buggers that are kids at the moment are going to remember 'we buy any car dot com' and 'smug twat recycles phone' adverts for years to come.
Sucks to be them.
The London Underground A to Z - Barbican
I have to admit that Bank had soured me a little bit on this project, as I'd disliked it so much. That isn't the reason why there's been a rather large delay between columns - that was because Barbican may be the entrance to hell.
That's no criticism of the station itself. If anything, it's something of a selling point. You see, Barbican, despite being in the centre of London, is an overground station, more or less. It's near the start of the metropolitan line, which takes a few stations to actually enter the underground section - this happens at the end of the platform for Barbican. This means that the Barbican is lower than ground level (by quite some distance) and yet open air. When you're in the station, it's towered over by buildings, and you are at the same level as their foundations. It's really quite odd.
Since the platforms go on longer than you'd expect (leading to a dark, scary part at the end of the platform that's a bit smelly, very dingy and the kind of area you'd expect to see in a news update entitled 'where the body was found', but nonetheless awesome), you are basically walking to the mouth of the underground. Looking into it is just black nothingness, and it would be quite easy to believe that it's the path to the underworld.
Especially when your phone decides to die and start randomly deleting pictures and files. It locked up so badly that I couldn't use any of the pictures I'd taken, and had to reschedule this trip for the following week. All because my phone got posessed. Presumably by satan, who appears to live on the Metropolitan Line, just west of Barbican. Luckily, I got a new phone - although, as you may be able to see, I'm still getting the hang of the settings. All this said, despite the presence of the Dark Lord, I quite like Barbican as a station. It's a bit run down (one platform that is no longer used, and has a couple of pot plants put out), but the feeling of being surrounded by buildings is rather exhilerating in a strange way. It feels busy, but a bit more open than Bank did. There's an old signal house at the far end of the platform, which is derelict, but is a nice touch.
Going up the stairs, reveals a primary coloured internal station. It feels a little like being in the middle of ballamory. The framed history of the station is a lovely touch though, including plans and old pictures of the station. There is a small cafe, which is a bit greasy spoon, but nice enough. It also has a small internet cafe, which has me wondering which is going to be the next station to be part of the online world.
Wandering upstairs (there is no disabled access, unlike the William Hill down the road. Which seems strange), the view outside is gorgeous. It's a bit overly modern, but is largely residential. The steps in the station lead up to a flyover, with some great views of the surrounding area, including the famous Barbican venue, which is both too famous and too big for me to look into yet - I have quirkier fare to find. The immediate area is filled with cafes, pubs and bars - as well as a comedy hairdressers, which is an unexpected touch. Seriously, this place has bizarre and funny signs all over it, and actually seems to be quite witty.
Wandering back around the block brings you past a small park, with surrounding townhouses, that looks a bit like it should have a horde of chorus-singers performing 'Who Will Buy'. Going a little further brings you to Smithfield Market - which is what leads to the best thing about this area.
Smithfields Market is the largest food market around, and is where a huge amount of shops get their fresh fruit, veg and meat. Winding roads lead to tunnels underneath the market which you walk over as you pass. The building itself is gorgeous. There are a huge amount of pubs surrounding the area, which leads to the weirdest and best thing about this area.
The market opens at 4am and closes at 10am, and a number of the pubs around have special licenses which means that they can be open and serving for breakfast. If you're out for a late night during the week, you can just stay up all night, then head out this way for a beer-breakfast.
I wandered to 'The Rising Sun', a Sam Smiths pub near the market, which is a really nice place. It's also the cheapest pint I've had in a while in London, and does a really nice wheat beer. There's also one in Soho which is equally nice. I used to work up by the brewery in Tadcaster (WAY up north) and apparently the reason Sam Smith pubs lack TVs is because the owner resents having to pay for an entertainment licence. I can't help but like this fact.
So, a nice, quirky little station. An area of genuine interest nearby and some great pubs. Not quite as awesome as Baker Street, but pretty damn close. I like this place a lot. Heartily recommended. If you do go, go to the opposite side of the same block as the station - it's fantastic around there. This is an area well worth exploring.
1 - Baker Street
2 - Barbican
3 - Amersham
4 – Aldgate
5 - Balham
6 - Arnos Grove
7 - Aldgate East
8 - Angel
9 - Arsenal
10 - Acton Town
11 - Archway
12 - Alperton
13 - Bank