Wallpaper

August 26, 2008

Living in the city, there are streets you walk down every day. And then there are other streets you only walk down now and again, or ones that used to be part of your life but which you haven’t visited for years. And because of the gap, these streets can suddenly release strong memories of the things you once experienced there. Sometimes the same street conjures up events from several different time periods, like layers of peeled-back wallpaper on a partially demolished wall.

Monday was a Bank Holiday, and we walked down Lamb’s Conduit Street and had lunch in the flock-wallpapered Perseverance, where I’d spent a very pleasant afternoon back in the days when producers used to take me and my art director to lunch. Afterwards, we walked up the Gray’s Inn Road, past the Water Rats where I’d nodded along to a friend of a friend’s band. Then up to King’s Cross past the snooker hall where I once sat befuddled drinking tea with the crazy girl from work after the nightclubs closed, surprised that what had looked sinister from the outside was full of extremely polite young men. Just up the road from there, although we didn’t actually pass it, I could picture the Scala, once home to Popstarz, the nightclub that made it OK to be gay and not conform to a gay “look”, where I had happily danced, drunk and occasionally snogged. And peeling back another layer, I remembered all the way back to when the same building used to be a slightly arty, slightly seedy cinema, a time when I didn’t think of myself as gay but  was nevertheless drawn inside by the poster-boy for Pink Narcissus (an arty seventies striptease of a movie) and sat uncomfortably in an audience of men who all sighed wistfully at the final unveiling. Then through Bloomsbury past the leafy square with the hotel bar where I once went for a convivial drink with my dad and his wife when they hadn’t been married that long. And finally back to the West End (whose streets I still regularly tread) and a return to the present.

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Just watched the first episode of a Dawkins documentary about Darwin. The theory of evolution was explained pretty well, which it often isn’t. In fact, I think the badness of standard explanations accounts for the suspicion which with the theory is treated. I certainly remember thinking it sounded a little half-baked after getting a half-baked explanation at school – it all seemed a bit suspicious that evolution was throwing up all these useful variations. It was only several years (and a bit of maths) later that I got my head round the idea that the variations are random – most of them being completely useless – and that the useful ones only stick around because the animals with those ones are more likely to survive long enough to breed.

Of course Dawkins, being Dawkins, puts the scepticism  down to the religion vs science debate, making out that you can only believe in one or the other. But I’m sure there are lots of Christians out there who also believe in evolution – probably the very same Christians who don’t think it’s wrong for a man to lie with another man just because it said so in a very old book.