Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Beijing to Brixton

It's National Day in China and the beginning of a three-day break. Like Beijing we have gone into idle-mode, lounging around at home... I finished off Geoff Dyer's The Colour of Memory, a book which takes lounging around to artful extremes. It's about a bunch of twentysomething friends in late 80s Brixton. They're sophisticated enough to quote Nietzsche and Calvino and listen to jazz rather than hip-hop (indeed, the book is peppered with jazz, and Dyer's next book would be a homage to the genre), but aimless & unambitious enough to prefer hanging out, claiming dole and avoiding careers. There's no plot to speak of - just a succession of get-togethers in pubs, cafes, parties and each others' homes. It could have been depressing but actually it's very up, revolving around sympathetic, friendly characters who clearly care for each other. 
I lived in Brixton for most of the 90s and it brought it all back to me. The Albert, Atlantic, Trinity and Effra pubs, Franco's in the market, the Fridge and the Ritzy, the wholefood shop, Brixton Rec - they're all featured. Dyer lived there too and his affection for the place is obvious. Fifteen years on from when Liz and I moved out, it's become trendy, bordering-on-gentrified but there's still a buzz about it.
Funnily enough, Geoff Dyer was in Beijing six weeks ago - we helped arrange a talk for him in a bookshop - but I was in Edinburgh. Drat.

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