Wednesday, June 16

Vauxhall Sunset

My photo on the way home from St Pancras changing from the underground to the overland rail. Vauxhall is a poor area of London south of the Thames with a few neighborhoods that have gentrified. Parliament is on the other side of the river. The land was flat and parts were marshy and poorly drained by ditches, and only started to be developed in the mid-18th century but remained a village. Somehow it has retained this stigma.

Today, there is a large Portuguese community in Vauxhall and a favorite pre-concert restaurant of ours is a family Portuguese complete with seven old TVs showing some obscure football match without sound; the food excellent, tables checkered, wine cheap and the waiters there, like, forever. My kind of place.

Pictured in my photo is Secret Intelligence Service building (with antenna), home of MI6 (foreign intelligence) and MI5 (internal Security Service). SIS is sometimes referred to inside the Civil Service as Box 850 after its old MI6 post office box number. It has appeared in several Bond movies. The steel object across the photo is the Vauxhall Cross transport interchange, built in 2005. Its solar panels supply energy for 60% of the bus station's lighting.

And here is what makes Vauxhall vibrant: it has become London's gay village, home to an ever-increasing number of gay bars and nighclubs like Area, Barcode, Chariots, Crash, The Eagle, Fire, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern which dates back to the 1800s and was once a cabaret. When the club scene in central London became to commercial, the serious pleasure seekers went south for their good times. As often, the gays make a neglected urban area cool and then others follow - I think of Greenwich Village, NY, or Shoreditch. And now here.

"You're a woman of many parts, Pussy."
--James Bond in 'Goldfinger'