On a Sunday walk in the Surrey countryside, I came into the village of Pirbright and wandered into the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels. Inside, there is one grave grander than the rest, a grave topped with a large granite monolith.
The Bilbao Guggenheim has a lot to answer for. Its remarkable, undeniable success generated two dubious notions. The first is that what every down-on-its-luck, post-industrial city needs is an ‘iconic’ building. The second is that the quickest way to regenerate that same post-industrial city is to spend big on arts-heritage projects.
The English countryside was once a refuge for writers and artists of slender means. The life was peaceful, the air was fresh, and the rents were cheap. But like exotic plants transplanted to alien soil, they brought their own peculiarities to their new habitat. And they could arouse suspicion and sometimes loathing in the natives.
My new book, the second of the London Trails series, is out now. City of Song: A London Sixties Music Trail takes the reader on a walk from Chelsea to Soho, stopping off at twenty-four locations that hosted significant musical performances, encounters and happenings in that decade.
There are some who say that like ancient Rome, Sheffield was built on seven hills. Whatever the truth of that claim, none of the seven hills of Rome has anything like the Park Hill estate surmounting its brow.
To be thrice-memorialised on a single stretch of road might seem extravagant for a monarch, let alone an obscure, hapless highwayman. But though one of these remembrances of Spence Broughton is a kitsch and somewhat macabre reproduction of the after-life of his corpse, the other two would register briefly or not at all on the consciousness of the passer-by.