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1:38pm on Wednesday, 14th September, 2016:

Sights of London


I'm in London for half of this week at the annual symposium for the IGGI Doctoral Training Centre of which I am a part (and is now apparently the largest games-and-AI research centre in the world).

We're in London because this year the host university is Goldsmiths, which is in New Cross. When you step off the train, though, it could be anywhere in inner London. My wife lived in Ladbroke Grove for several years and it looks the same there as it does here. So do Islington, Tottenham, Newham, Hoxton, Mile End ... They're all Victorian streets with old family houses split into flats, bolt-on shop fronts, occasional new high-rises, and a perpetual air of seediness. The other two universities that are part of IGGI, Essex and York, are provincial but have pretty towns. Goldsmiths is not provincial and inner London (outside of the West End) isn't pretty. It's hard to tell why millions of people flock to the greatest city in the world given what most of it looks like. Further out in the suburbs it gets more salubrious, but here it's tatty and run-down.

Some random things I saw yesterday:

Very few overweight people. It's not that everyone is skin and bone, they just aren't overweight.

A woman in an evening dress with a tripod camera taking photographs of herself posing like a fashion model in front of buildings. I guess she was a Goldsmiths student. The driver of a passing refuse collection lorry gave her a wolf whistle. I haven't heard anyone give a wolf whistle in 20 years.

Police and ambulance vehicles zooming past with their flashing blue lights on every 10 minutes.

A woman in her late 30s dressed as if she were in her teens, centimetre-long artificial eyelashes, in floods of tears. She had black knees as if she'd been kneeling in soot. I was wondering if I should have asked if she needed help, but she seemed to be under the effects of illegal substances so I didn't.

A buttons shop. How a shop that only sells buttons can survive on a high street in a place as expensive as London is a mystery. Maybe people come from miles around as it's the only button emporium in souh London, or maybe they sell other things under the counter that aren't buttons.

A café with a bong outside, from which people were vaping. It's a recipe for catching germs off people if you ask me...

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Copyright © 2016 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).