Download your copy: .PDF | .DOC


I am twelve, in Paris. My father has rented a flat near the Parc Montsouris in the south of the city. My parents let us (two brothers, sister and me) go for a walk the first day. My elder brother leads us purposefully down the Avenue Reille. "No! This way, this way!" I shout (knowing intuitively, as I have always known) "You're going away from the centre!" "So what? says my brother, "we're only going for a walk!"

I trail behind, almost tearful at this wilful neglect of what is, for me, an imperative, the urban imperative.

It has always mattered. Twenty six years later I go to Budapest for a month's work. My kind hosts meet me at the airport to take me to my hotel. They speed me, tantalisingly, into the centre and then, horror! out, God knows how far out, to a Holiday Inn type edifice; no harm in that per se; but it is practically in the country. I stick it there two nights. As I have dinner alone over a book, serenaded at my very table by a "gypsy" trio, I decide enough! Tactfully I enquire about alternatives. "But", say my hosts, "we thought English people liked the country". Not this one, I mutter.

Within the day I am installed in a creaky flat where Nepkoztarsasag meets (what was) Lenin Boulevard. Hot water is erratic; the lift is a mantrap, an advertising hoarding floods the bedroom with a sickly light. Trams clank and splutter outside the window. I am content.

This craving for metropolis may not require the services of an Oliver Sachs; but I do wonder sometimes why it matters, casting about in vaguely psychoanalytical way for the source for my metrophilia. I know, for example, that I always fear being not quite at the centre of a circle of peers. I have always had an anxiety that I may be, fatally, just removed, in time, in space, from an imagined focus of human warmth and complicity. Am I seeking an urban analogy for this imagined 'centre'? Or (later note) is it simpler? After my father's death I found a photograph of him walking purposefully, indeed voraciously, along a city street, a map in hand (Barcelona; immediately identifiable to me, even in this little napshot; that dense grid of streets contradictorily struck through by the great Avenida Diagonal.)


need these streets
city sublime
seismic city
chopper shot
perfect city
dark city
global flaneur
shanghai and seoul
city tourist
loathsome centres
krung thep
sex city
hong kong
nightmares dreams
new sublime
dickens in la

  verybigcity: e-Book by Rodney Blakeston
  :: SITEKICK.CO.UK :: 2002©Rodney Blakeston