Change is a strange thing. We need some of it or we get bored but mostly what
we really want is homoeostasis - to find a situation we like and keep
everything the same indefinitely - this is unlikely to happen and if it did
we’d probably get bored eventually.
In the last three years both my parents died. Now some changes seem even more
painful as they remove things I associated with my parents and them being
alive. This made it hard to redecorate my parents house when I moved into it
last year - on one hand we needed to do a lot of work to make the house
suitable for my family on the other many changes removed something of my
parents. For example removing the cupboards that my Dad made himself (he was
trained as a cabinet maker).
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about change and memories recently…
No article on memories would be complete without the obligatory Blade Runner
quote: “All these moments will be lost like tears in rain.” However, this begs
the question “does it matter?” - One day I will die and much of what I’ve
learned will be lost. Not much will remain of Dave Snowdon after that except
for my children’s memories and those too will fade. Maybe some of what I’ve
written down will survive but that presumes that someone will think that’s
worth doing. So it’s a reasonable bet that in a hundred years or so not much
will remain of Dave Snowdon except possibly a few photos on decaying media and
maybe some blog posts in an Internet archive. This is not a problem for
humanity though - as long as I’ve prepared my children for adult life and
given them the resources to make their own way then I’ve done my job and while
I might hope that I’ll live on in more than the (pleasant I hope!) memories of
my children in the grand scheme of things it does not matter at all.
A tough one is architecture as that affects both the character of a place, the
quality of life of the people who live there and gives us a view onto the
past. We obviously have to make changes to the built environment as our needs
change but how to decide what to preserve and what to demolish? How do we
balance English Heritage and the National Trust against property developers
who simply see the space taken up by forests and ancient buildings in terms of
their monetary value?
Digital technology can help to some extent - if we can’t retain the physical
presence of something we can at least retain the digitally preserved memory of
Apart from saying “leave England’s forests
alone!“ I can’t provide answers on the large scale, but
there is a local issue that’s been on my mind as I walk past it every day on
the way to work and because it’s been there throughout my entire life.
Photo by _moonpie
Electric Parade, South Woodford, London E18, was named so because of the
Board (LEB) showroom
that was originally there. One of the distinctive features of the row of shops
was a giant model of an incandescent light bulb under the lettering “Electric
Parade” The LEB showroom closed when I was still quite young and was replaced
by a series of shops, most recently Pizza Express.
I was impressed when Pizza Express kept the giant incandescent light-bulb on
the frontage and changed the filament for a neon version spelling out Pizza -
it showed both some humour and some respect for the area and for the history
of the place - I thought.
Unfortunately, in 2012’s redecoration of Pizza Express the designer in
question seems to have thought that light-bulb wallpaper was a good
alternative to the giant light-bulb and as a result the new frontage is…
boring… dull. It says nothing about the history of the parade of shops.
Now maybe you think I’m making too much of this, it’s a just a plastic and
wood mockup of an obsolete lighting technology after all. However, I think
areas need a local character, a local presence otherwise everywhere will look
even more uniform and bland than city suburbs do anyway. Tourist hotspots have
big landmarks to help them stand out; places less blessed with architectural
gems need all the help they can get.
So I say to Pizza Express South Woodford: bring back the light-bulb!