Saturday, 7 July 2012

Not Moving Forward

While sometimes I am led astray by my instinctive conservatism, (for instance, I now realise that screwtop wine bottles are great and corks, although traditional, are on a day-to-day basis, a bore), I think, when it comes to the changes wrought on most of my favourite urban landscapes since the 1960s, that a bit more conservatism would have saved us from the many small, dull hells that now pass as town centres across England.

I was provoked into this vein of thought by a link about the King's Road that my brother sent me, showing that Starbuck's has invaded the realms of my childhood and that, since I was learning to walk and ride a tricycle and eventually even a bicycle in the neighbourhood, the place has succumbed to the British chain shop virus.

To make matters worse, I had just been to Vienna when I looked at the pictures of how things were and how things now are in the part of Chelsea where I grew up.

The Viennese are not always the easiest of people. Looking at the pictures posted in the window of the appalling Eden Bar:

 gives you a taste of their less attractive side:

and their passion for Trzesniewski's:

 egg concoctions, which they serve at every available opportunity, is baffling, (although the 1949 frieze on the front is interesting in the way it reveals the preoccupations of the time - pineapple, chicken, Italian wine and lobster, all just dreams for most people in post-war Vienna):

and their fondness for establishments like the House of Gentlemen:

frequented by natty chaps like this one:

who will persist in that naff continental habit of marching about with their jacket sleeves empty, so that they look armless, is also not exactly admirable.

All the same, I bow to the Viennese in one thing - their sophisticated understanding that, when you've got something right, there's no need to fiddle with it any longer.Thus, passing Cafe Braunerhof, I glanced through the window:

and was enchanted to see that, not only had they done nothing at all to alter the interior, but, in fact, even the waiters were the same as last time I was there some years ago.

At WH Auden's favourite restaurant, the Ilona Stuberl, all also seemed well:

at first.

But, oh no, even in Vienna the winds of progress are blowing. Look, curses, over in the corner, there's a bloody great flat screen telly:
and, even more distressing, next door do you see what's opened up:
We are all doomed, damn it. Nowhere at all is safe.


  1. I think a somewhat over-bleak conclusion, ZMKC. The wonderful thing about Vienna is that it doesn't change - with the exception that whereas once it had its share of run-down buildings, virtually everything has now been prettified. I don't think one flat screen television and a Starbucks in a side-street - while indeed regrettable developments - are signs that the Viennese plan to change their habits and stop wallowing in the past.

    1. Revelling not wallowing, surely? Mind you, after being told once in a hotel there that the air conditioning only works if the temperature outside does not rise above 80F, I would not object to a bit of modernisation on that front.

  2. Mind you, it's the classiest looking Starbucks I've ever seen....

  3. ... Except for the green spectres of death in front of it.