Monday, March 09, 2009

Kingsley Amis on New Cross

Kingsley Amis is certainly not my favourite South London writer - if he can be termed one on account of having been born in Clapham. His late period novel 'Stanley and the Women' (1984)includes a snooty anti-South London rant:

'It was raining busily away when I started on my dis­agreeable journey. I took the Apfelsine through the middle - straight down the hill, along past the office, across Blackfriars Bridge, to the Elephant and into the Old Kent Road... South of the river I was on home ground, or not far off. By the time I got to New Cross I had come to within five miles of where I had been born and brought up.

For all I knew, this part and that part had been different then, built at different times with different ideas, anyhow not interchangeable. That was no longer so, if it ever had been, unless perhaps you happened to have an eye for churches. Not that I cared, of course - I had left South London for good as soon as I had the chance. And yet in a sense what I saw from the Apfelsine was the same as ever, was cramped, thrown up on the cheap and never finished off, needing a lick of paint, half empty and every­where soiled, in fact very like my old part as noticed when travelling to and from an uncle's funeral a few weeks back. Half the parts south of the river were never proper places at all, just collections of assorted buildings filling up gaps and named after railway stations and bus garages. Most people I knew seemed to come from a place - Cliff Wain­wright and I got out of an area. This might have spared us various problems'.

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