There was a fairly substantial fire in Shoreditch yesterday (one paper even used the stock phrase 'Londons Trendy Shoreditch', as wearily anticipated here). 100 firefighters, 20 or so fire appliances. A proper fire. 'A good fire.' I think I'm allowed to say that, seeing as I believe no-one was hurt
Fire is an interesting phenomenon in London. Londoners are fascinated by it, but not necessarily in the way rubberneckers on the motorway slow down to catch an accident. The accidental jousters in a road crash are normally anonymous to us and the ubiquity of the day to day bump means it's only ever a passing punctuation mark in a busy day. A fire on the other hand has rather more familiar contestants. 'I know that street', I've been in that bar', 'My mate goes to that club'. On a city the scale of London, it is unusual for the masses to share a collective consciousness of a person but buildings are a different matter, especially in a popular area like Londons Trendy Shoreditch™. On that level, fire in London, on this scale at least, is a normaliser, it allows one of the worlds great metropolises to function socially more like a small village. I advisedly dodge the latest buzz term 'social condenser', but then maybe if it's one that goes up in smoke I suppose I could allow myself that luxury.
Of course, London has form when it comes to fire, perhaps more so than other great cities, but then maybe only in our own British martyrdom, I'm sure it happens elsewhere. However, no-one gets London and Londoners better than Peter Ackroyd, who dedicates a whole chapter of his seminal history, 'London: The Biography' to the place of fire in the hearts of it's inhabitants. If you haven't already (and Lord knows you've had chance, it's been out for years...) then you should pick up a copy, it's absurdly cheap in paperback.
Anyway, back to another dull day under the fug of a London March still devoid of Spring. Another fire might just warm things up a bit....