November 06, 2003
Dracula's Real Estate
The opening of the M25 in October 1986 (Margaret Thatch-er's dome moment) signalled the end of London and its liberties. We were now a traffic island. The pollution was visible from space; we would be living under a skin of bad gas, an anti-Eden project. Walking the road, anti-clockwise, let me in on all the secrets: the vanishing hospitals, the asylums that became gated estates, military and pharmaceutical bunkers, the ever-expanding airport runways, CCTV cameras, John Wyndham villages and "severed" communities.
The best guides to the territory, in the days before JG Ballard perched in Shepperton, were to be found among the more imaginative late-Victorian authors: HG Wells at the southwest corner with The War of the Worlds, and Bram Stoker, who placed Dracula's abbey at Purfleet, where the QEII Bridge comes to rest among oil storage tanks. Count Dracula was the forerunner of contemporary real estate speculators: the first one to buy into Thames Gateway. The count anticipated Thatcher's boys-in-braces, Blair's quangos. Buy toxic, buy cheap: madhouses, old chapels, decaying abbeys. Then make your play: storage and distribution. "All that die from the preying of the Un-dead become themselves Un-dead and prey on their own kind," wrote Stoker. "And so the circle goes on ever widening, like ripples from a stone thrown in water."
whose new book, London Orbital is a chronical of walking around the massive highway that circles the far reaches of London.Posted by Abe at November 6, 2003 09:51 AM