Monday, 13 July 2020

Palaces for the people

The Scala 
This weekend, we took the opportunity to get out and about in town. Last night we met up with my sister in law for a meal at the rather marvellous Camino in Kings Cross. Tapas is one of my favourite types of food. Pre lockdown, Camino was a difficult place to get into, but last night we had the run of the place. We vowed to get to our favourite places ASAP as they need support like never before. Our meal was absolutely top notch. I like Tapas as you can pick at lots of different things and experience different tastes. The train was empty and took less than 20 minutes from Mill Hill. As you can see from the pictures, Kings Cross had nowhere near the usual bustle of 6pm on a Sunday evening.

I'd been up to town once since the Lockdown, that was for a trip to UCH for a scan at the height of lockdown, rather different to meeting friends. Much as the meal was wonderful, the best thing for me was re-acquainting myself with architecture of the area. For many of us, the Scala  holds a mystical charm.  When I was a teenager, it was a cinema showing cult movies. The area was edgy, with junkies and prostitutes a plenty. I never raised my eyes to appreciate the architecture of the building.  Nowadays, I always stand in awe and wonder when I see it. Kings and Queens build themselves palaces with large walls, guarded by Police and Soldiers. The Scala is a Palace of a different type, it is a palace of the people. It is a space we can all enjoy. Whenever I used to go past the wall of Buckingham Palace, on my way to Victoria on the no 52 bus, I'd wonder why anyone would build a palace and lock people out. It seemed rather selfish to me. Perhaps that is why I've always felt myself a republican, although I have a soft spot for her Majesty the Queen (as an aside, I'd much rather Princess Anne succeeded him that Prince Charles, who I consider to be a walking time bomb. If you read our history books, all of our best Monarchs were female. Anne would do the job properly, her brothers are a bunch of dim witted dodgy chancers in my humble opinion).

St Pancras

The Lighthouse
Another Palace that always makes me feel happy is St Pancras. It's ostentatious gothic design, housing an international railway service to me is a proper use of a palatial design. I've probably boarded trains tens of thousands of times at the station, but never tire of it. In some ways, this is my favourite view. There is no greater pleasure than having a glass of Champagne in the Champagne bar, before boarding the Eurostar to Paris. Sadly, I usually make my way to the bowels of the station and board a Thameslink Train to Mill Hill, which somehow isn't the same. Back in the 1970's, when the line was run using old fashioned Diesel trains, the driver would leave the blind open at the front and there was no greater thrill than emerging from the tunnels south of Kentish Town to see the station.  In those days, the station stank of diesel fumes and was full of grime. I always rather liked it, but now it really does feel like a palace.

The third Palace that brings me great joy is the Lighthouse. Located across the road from Kings cross Station, this rather unfeasible land mark has recently been given a spruce up. I have no idea why there is a lighthouse there, given the lack of ships and the sea, but it always makes me happy to see it. Underneath is a branch of the Burger chain five guys. I can think of no more fitting restaurant for a palace for the  people than a burger chain.

For many years, the humble burger was the street food of London on the go. It seems to me that in recent years, fried chicken has usurped this. I was talking to our resident pest controller at the studio and he tells me that the rise of the Fried Chicken shop has lead to a resurgence of the rat population, that munches on the disguarded bones.

London is full of such amazing buildings, the diversity of Londons architecture is unique. Many such as Prince Charles hate anything that isn't neo classical, but I love modern buildings such as the Shard just as much as the real classic heritage sites such as The Tower and St Pauls. But most of all, I love buildings that we can all enjoy and that play a living, functional role in our city, such as The Scala and St Pancras.

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