Goodbye, Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station + plane

There are few landmarks as iconic to Londoners as Battersea Power Station. To the rest of the world it’s all about the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the Shard, but to those of us who call London home those four skinny chimneys are as sweet and homely as a mug of hot chocolate.

To me its emptiness offers a moment of peace in a hectic, jumbled up city. It’s tall and knowing, calm and still. Whenever I’ve been away for long periods of time, the few years I decided to decamp ‘oop north’ for example, it, more than anything else, would make me feel flushed with homesickness when I saw it on TV.

Chelsea Fringe lens thing

‘Arty’ lens thing (being idiots).

IMG_3992

Looking like a total gimp. Again.

A few weeks ago as part of Chelsea Flower Show’s fringe festival, the strip of land in front of the old building was opened to the public for the first time in years. The art installations weren’t particularly memorable, but the chance to get closer to Battersea Power Station was. I’d never noticed the strange romance in its smashed windows, the nesting birds or the rusting coal cranes before.

Battersea Power Station coal cranes close-up

They even had grass growing on them in patches.

Ever since I’ve been dogged by sadness. This week, work is due to start on redeveloping the building (it’s really happening this time). The site’s been bought by a Malaysian consortium – made up of a palm oil plantation, a property group and the state pension fund – who will take it to pieces and start again, rebuilding it minus the decay and the birds. Instead there will be new ‘smart spaces’ – flats, offices and a gym.

Battersea Power Station coal cranes

It was inevitable that it would become something flashy one day, especially considering its fairly central position and notoriety. Of course, I’m happy it’ll be looked after, but I’d become quite attached to the building as it was. Thanks to dozens of failed redevelopments it’s been nothing other than a landmark during my lifetime. It felt like it existed for no other reason than because it was ours, the people who lived nearby, and we loved it.

Battersea Power Station

Despite developers promising a ‘cultural hub’, a community, many of the flats have already been sold to overseas investors. The building will become an international attraction, the famous chimneys part if its brand, and it won’t be ours anymore. Technically the frontage will look similar (it’s Grade II* listed), but there’ll be little of the spirit left of the landmark I loved. When I roll past on the Waterloo train, staring out of the window, there won’t be Battersea Power Station looking back at me, but Malaysian palm oil and Arab black gold.

The fear of homesickness has kept me in London since returning from those years in The North, I was scared of seeing images of the beautiful (to me) landscape and thinking what have I done? But its useless feeling attached to city like London because, no matter how long you’ve been here, it will never love you back. Not unless you’ve got an outrageous amount of cash anyway. Perhaps it’s time to move on.

Battersea Power Station, coal cranes, sunset

As you can see, bit obsessed with these coal cranes (made in Bath, by the way)

Advertisements

Armchair travel: Shiraz in 360 panoramas

So here’s my new thing – wasting time looking at 360 panoramic shots of things. Some are brilliant, others are not so, but all allow you to get a bit of a travel fix while bored out of your mind at work. Who knows how I ended up looking at pictures of Shiraz, but it turns out it’s not just a tasty variety of wine. Shiraz is Iran’s ninth largest city. Situated seventy kilometres south west of Persepolis, it’s famous for literature and gardens.

These are some of my favourites:

Iran carpets

Carpet Repair Workhop

A colourful, raggedy workshop where they seem to be repairing Persian rugs. At least some places have resisted adopting the throw-away culture.

Iran Mosque

Nasir Al Mulk Mosque

This mosque’s stained glass is stunning with the sun streaming through, it forms this trippy pattern-on-pattern effect in bright sweet shop colours.

Iran poems

House of Poems

A shop with poems hanging from every available surface. It’s every writer’s dream.

Iran lion

Lion Statue

The word Shiraz means ‘cave of lion’ because at one stage it was seen as absorbing productions from the rest of the country, while exporting nothing itself. The sandstone lion statue, hiding away in a cave is mildly interesting, but this shot of tourists taking pictures is just so meta. I loved it.

Iran tomb

Tomb of Hefez

Shams al-din Mohammad, or Hafiz, is considered as one of the greatest Iranian poets. Little is known about him but he is thought to have been born between 1317 and 1326 A.D. in Shiraz. This monument is nowhere near that old, it was built in the 1770s. The detailing in the roof reminds me of sun refractions in the sea.

Which one’s your favourite?