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Friday, January 16, 2009

Everywhere you go there's a slogan

Went to the new King's Cross yesterday to drop something off at The Guardian's splendid new HQ. The redevelopment of that area has been accompanied by energetic efforts to convince a sceptical public that London's grittiest area was about to become one of its most polished. A few years ago they put up posters all over the area with the slogan "King's Cross - Take Another Look". This was a grim joke on the people who had to look at some of its less salubrious aspects every day. (This weekend BBC Radio Four's Archive Hour is given over to Alan Dein's "Nations Of The Cross", his oral history of the area. Dein's stuff is always worth hearing.)

As development continues the slogans proliferate. All the smart new businesses down York Way have them. Their corporate aspirations are etched into the glass of their reception areas. They'll probably be able to afford to change them before they become an embarrassment. Walking back up the hill towards the Angel, every building seems to have some kind of inscription on it. The Edwardians chiselled it into the stone. "Drill Hall", "Boys", "Girls" or "Woodwork". The tower blocks erected in the 70s are named after politicians or birds but more prominent are the signs warning what will happen if you should venture in their precincts without either living there or being properly introduced. Everywhere you go there are inscrutable-looking keypads and entrycams, promising you that somebody is convinced you are up to no good.

The walls surrounding the girls school have been painted with somebody's idea of an educational mission statement: "Learn without limits. Create without limits. Perform without limits."