A Place of Education
All around the world people have dreams about London. An Afghan girl living in Pakistan, in the laste twentieth century, was told by her father that if she did well in her studies she’d be sent to London for higher education at university, from that point the girl would dream of living in London.
A Place of Surprise
It would seem that London, in the way it is portrayed, and by its very nature, has a certain allure for people all around the world. London presents the idea of opportunity of something unknown, of serendipidity.
A Place to Become Wealthy
We need to massage the chin and muse on how the desire for material accumulation and status has driven the formation, development and make-up of London. Old Father Thames, a nexus through which goods can be transported, traded and accessed, has long been a beacon to the avaricious. The fantasy of London as a mess of trade, bartering and opportunity have attracted many an envious eye and one or two fingers eager to break into the deep filled thick crust pie that is London. London is often perceived to be a market town, a place to bring, trade and consume goods, attracting those who are happy to forsake home, tradition and community for a chance to dip their finger in the thick crust pie, as well as those who have been forsaken, neglected and pushed out of their homesteads, who hope somehow to catch the generous helping of crumbs, which overflow from their ever so well fed master’s table. The burning sun that is London, that passion for material gain, continues to burn strongly to this day, two hundred times the size it was in Roman days. London’s continuing development and redevelopment as the place to sell and trade your goods has long attracted those with desire for material accumulation and status.
The fabled sense of opportunity offered by London is best captured in the 14th Century myth of Dick Whittington, who arrived in London with nothing and went on to make his fortune and become Mayor of London. More recently, we recount the story of celebrated businessman Sir Alan Sugar, whose life began in the humble surroundings of a Hackney Council Estate, but who has now amassed a substantial personal wealth, and has his own TV show called The Apprentice. In this programme aspiring Dick Whittingtons and Alan Sugars compete in the hope of unlocking the key to the riches of London. London then is a city celebrated for making men rich. The towering immensity of London’s financial sector, the largesse of its villas and mansions and the grandiosity of its town houses are celebrated as hard evidence of the material achievement of the city’s denizens.
A Place of Salubriousness
In China, where there is a tendency to recreate western environment, for example the entire campus of Nottingham University has been created in China, to demonstrate that they have reached the level of the west, and they are ready to move on, the Chinese authorities being very focused on dominance. When they attempt to replicate European living environments they, of course, want to make them pleasant, so the fact that they have decided to create Thames Town, is a nod to London, to its wealth, to the status of the city, to the desirability and envy of the west. So this Thames Town is being built outside Shaghai. And just like in London’s more salubrious areas people in China cannot afford to buy and live in these houses, so the streets have remained deserted. Photographer Dave Wyatt who photographed said “When I arrived in Thames Town for the first time it became apparent that the space was lacking the usual dynamic of a town bustling with life and appeared to be mainly the refuge of local wedding photographers. Whilst it was at times easy to partially fool myself that I was in an English model village such as Street in Somerset, the fact that I was there in July meant that the humidity and heat were off the charts for an English Summer and the storms were unlike anything we would experience.” Wyatt made referene to a particular image of a street in the development, which looked very English and just not quite right at the same time. The mock Tudor housing lining the street that could be in any market town in England, leading up to the garish pink facade at the end, with only small elements of text and the obligatory air conditioners as a giveaway as to the true location. The uneven street leading up to this garish building front just adds to this sense of disorientation. I myself have been in Taiwan, to a huge Tescos there, where I couldn’t find sliced bread or baked beans, but where I could buy, several bullfrogs, alive, who sat in metal trays being sprayed with cold water, looking thoroughly miserable. I felt betrayed.