My copy of Lights Out For The Territory is now so well pawed that it’s shedding leaves like autumn trees. Which is perhaps why, walking up Dartmouth Park Hill past the Whittington, with the great dome of St Joe’s looming, I suddenly thought I was walking up a collapsed pillar of gold. It had been standing in Tufnell Park but a hurricane had blown it down, the slope of the northern heights had cradled its fall, and now it provided a royal carpet for truants and loafers, dowsers and dreamers – and people with more sensible reasons for ascending to the lip of the basin in the milky autumn light and looking back to the pillars of mammon in the city’s sclerotic heart.
Everywhere I looked I saw gold. The Belisha beacons blinked bling. The ragwort by the side of the tennis courts looked like a grave hoard pulled from the drift. Golden globes like strangely flattened pumpkins squatted on the heavy iron railings. Swains Lane was a tunnel of gold waiting for a cockney funeral. But it was too warm to see the black plumed horses’ breath as they strained for the last climb to what passes for a final resting place, but is only really the start of another journey (“who is to know the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried?”) powered by earth worms and gravity. I stopped to imagine a river of souls flowing alongside the Fleet River in its concrete pipe. I followed it from Highgate ponds under Kentish Town and emerged blinking at the steps by the coroner’s court which I climbed to enter St Pancras church yard where I found a brace of poets and a skinhead photographer huddled over rods and temperature gauges and samizdat compendiums with short print runs: a mind-meeting, a coven, a boomer Quantocks on a half-hill humped by the railway. It was – and is – the 13th June 1995.
“Nothing is erased … This ground is holy: from its golden pillars a city of revelation will be built.”