I had not clocked Spaced until a beer blogger wrote a couple of years ago about the evolution of the function of pubs as you grow older in London, coinciding with chronic decline due to wider socio-economic trends. ‘The specific pub culture depicted has already begun to fade out of existence,’ blogged Boak & Bailey, ‘The portrayal of a lock-in, for example, gave us a rush of nostalgia for the world of drawn curtains, low muttering and conspiratorial glee.’ The ‘rough-and-ready pubs’ that were a mainstay of urban life and fabric, taken for granted, are now almost all flats and Tesco Metros. These nondescript boozers were already staggering, and the pandemic has all but finished them off.
I was not watching much TV on Friday nights at the turn of the millennium. But as a latecomer I find Space to be one of the most charming and comforting sitcoms ever made, and a vehicle of heart-sinking nostalgia. Twenty years is a long time, but twenty years ago feels recent. Like Daisy and Tim I was shacking up in shared houses, people typically lounging around with little disposable income. I was last night thinking of the Bagpuss theme tune pizzicato spliced at the start of Series 2 Episode 2 as accompaniment to successive close-ups of the show’s 20-something loafers, and the dog, lying in one morning before the violent eruption of an almighty row between the landlady and her daughter Amber, one of many moments of comic inspiration.
Thirty years ago with the launch of the Premier League and Sky Sports, I tried to impress an older and wiser mate of mine by recalling a Billy Bragg motto ‘Capitalism is Killing Music’ from a few years earlier (which he had put on an album cover along with the instruction to ‘pay no more than £4.99’ for it). Capitalism is killing football, I said; Capitalism is killing everything, he swiftly retorted. Now my club, from which have become already estranged, owned by a remote, callous and philistine American billionaire, announced its elopement with similarly soul-bereft mega clubs to form a ‘super league’. I am not sure where this will end up; it’s been long on the cards.
What is left? The BBC cannot be relied on anymore for neutral analysis, now they have been cowed into submission by the rightwing’s ascendancy and its iron grip on British power. The Church of England, and my old parish church of Hackney has been captured and branded by the born-again marketers of the Royal Borough of Kensington.
What I thought was permanent is not. It’s all now sunken lines and sockets, greyness and loss.
UPDATE: Super League is dead, for now. Hope springs…