Tuesday 2 February 2016

Dingy (1)

I don't know what to do with this small discovery - apart from share it with you, the world. So bear with me, because after an unpromising start this goes somewhere.

The nearest overground railway station to where we live is on the former Great Northern main line from King's Cross. It was formerly named Wood Green until, keen to exploit a possible connection with the newly-established conference centre at the adjacent unlovely Victorian pile (home to the original BBC television service) it was re-named Alexanrda Palace on 17th May 1982.

The renaming ceremony involved the film star Diana Dors (in a bright tangerine dress, and past her prime), local reporters, some sheepish-looking British Rail managers, a special electric train (plus headboard) and the unveiling of a plaque. A little girl presented the star with a cellophane bouquet. It was the sort of non-event deemed newsworthy in the barren 1980s and here's a 35-second report from Thames Television

I chanced upon the clip yesterday while looking up train times online and was swept back thirty years. It's the apotheosis of low-key English dinginess: the overcast sky, the damp platforms, the ramshackle organisation, the fading celebrity, the pervasive lack of glamour, or momentousness, or even significance - all very post-Suez, It could form the basis for a modernist opera (think Nixon in China in reduced circumstances).

Or, if not an opera, a monograph?

I see from a review in the current TLS that, in an off-the-cuff remark during a lecture at Le Collège de France in the 1970s, Michel Foucault once suggested that there should be a history of laziness (ir perhaps, in a  sterner register, idleness). I'd argue that dinginess also has a claim for serious analysis. It has a pictorial presence in (say) the photographs of Martin Parr and the Crap Towns series edited by Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran. But neither of these quite cut the mustard, if their respective creators will forgive me. i want something non-jokey and cerebral. I want an Encyclopedia Dinigana.

This is a rich seam. More English dinginess to follow . . .

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