THE OLD BRUTALISM
Welcome, dear reader, to our March issue. Have you noticed that if you put the word “Mass” in front of what was once a pleasant pastime, then it ruins the whole idea? For example, there was a time when travel was a pleasure, a true adventure, and something done in the spirit of curiosity. And flying in the latest airliner was about the most exciting thing you could think of. Now put “Mass” in front of “air travel” and you immediately call up a vision of Gatwick Airport, a circle of hell which would have made Dante run screaming from the room.
So too there was a time when motoring was a pleasure, and people used to say on a Sunday afternoon: “Let’s go for a drive”. You don’t hear that any more, and not for the last 30 years either. A recent trip from London to the north coast of Norfolk took me 20 minutes longer than it ever did using only A-roads in the 1970s.
In this issue we take a look at a new book of photographs of Britain’s roads taken from the air, Britain’s Motoring Heritage from the Air by John Minnis, and an extraordinary piece of social history it is. Large black and white aerial footage, some of dating from the 1920s, show how pleasant the country was until the building spree of the 1960s, which destroyed this country’s fabric. Road complexes such as Spaghetti Junction and the Hammersmith flyover disconnected local people from their neighbourhood. The one picture which encapsulates all that went wrong is of Birmingham’s Bull Ring, that piece of civic GBH. Its architect Manzoni, died in 1972, and I believe he wasn’t lynched.
Never mind, there is still much else in this place to enjoy. And in here you will also find the Settle to Carlisle railway line which ranks as one of the wonders of the world. Built by Victorians, beautiful, and still standing.
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