Three years ago I wrote a cynical poem about fairy lights. If you know me, you’ll know that’s a little incongruous, given my usual love of them, and how I hang them all over my house right through the year!
However, it’s less about the lights themselves and more about my hatred for one of my least favourite places on earth, London’s Praed Street, outside Paddington Station. It’s a noisy, dirty clash of all the wealth and filth of humanity, and it was a part of my daily commute for two and a half years. Its offensiveness all comes to a head in the run up to Christmas, when the street is even more crowded and the adverts even louder than the rest of the year. I had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing it again this week whilst visiting London.
‘Buy!’ scream the buses, the billboards, and the fairy lights, evidently put up far more as an encouragement to consume than as a celebration that God is with us. Buy what? A stay in a luxury hotel, diamonds, dodgy takeaways, meals out in chain restaurants, cigarettes, designer handbags, Tesco sandwiches, drugs, trafficked prostitutes. Homeless people beg, and try to sleep on the floor amongst the endless bus stop queues. Litter piles up, and the pavements run with unpleasant substances and cleaning fluids…
But I think I said it better in poetry than I ever could in prose. The lights say it all to me. Here’s the poem:
Paddington lights stand proudly
twisted like the broken DNA of the city
with blood on the pavements
warped and disconnected like the fracture in the crowd beneath
celebration framed in a barbed-wire gesture of empty triumph
whilst pillows in doorways are hidden
by smokescreen and screaming riches
on the filthy streets
(from my diary, dated 1/12/11)