Saturday, January 24, 2004

More songs about buildings and stars

What's your favorite place in London?

It seems like a perfectly straightforward question. "What's your favorite place in Boston?" Ask me as a lifelong Bostonian and I'll tell you about the Mapparium, or Zaftigs Deli, or the one street corner near City Hall where you can stand and spend a half an hour pointing to spots where pivotal moments in American history occurred over a 20-year period. Or even the Public Garden, home to the smallest suspension bridge in the United States.

None of these spots is an absolute world-beater. But I think they're great. It's what I think of when I think of home.

In a few months I'll be visiting London for the first time. I'm reading "Nairn's London" with great delight and Googling ferociously for some sort of P.G. Wodehouse monument to have my picture taken in front of. But I'm looking to spackle in the gaps of my sightseeing with personal and highly subjective advice from locals.

But it doesn't work. I ran it past my three London pals and even put it to a lady traffic-reporter I met at a dinner party last night. They always get bogged down in "Well, what do you want to do?" or "Are you interested in shopping?"

No no no. "You _lived_ there. You probably _enjoyed_ it. When you think about a place that in _any_ small way sums up the ineffable ginchiness of the place for you, what pops to mind? I am willing to sign a waiver absolving you of all responsibility should I actually go there and wonder what the big deal was."

That's what I _wanted_ to say, but I didn't want to frighten a woman I'd just been introduced to, So I muttered something about shopping and she said that Harrod's was pretty nice.

So I put it to you: What's your favorite place in London?

Hmm. If you put it like that, it's probably the roof of the Midland Hotel, well, the whole building really, in front of St Pancras Station. It's currently off-limits to the public, as it has been for thirty years, although it's being renovated, which is both good, as otherwise it would crumble, and bad, as the derelict gothic quality of the place is part of what I respond to. I think there are guided tours, though, and if there aren't a quick Google gave me a virtual tour. Neverwhere was filmed there, which gave me the freedom to wander to my heart's happiness, and so was my film "A Short Film About John Bolton", although I was directing, and had much less time to wander.)

It used to be the British Museum Library Reading Room, but that isn't exactly there any longer.

Other candidates for favourite place would include the churchyard of the Actors Church in Covent Garden, particularly if you can be there on Sunday May 9th 2004. (Here's the link to the 2003 event), Down Street Station, Albert Bridge on a warm evening, and the house that Tori rented in Lissom Grove in the mid-90s that was, in itself, a bridge over a canal.

But for me a lot of the fun of London is less about favourite places and more about favourite walks. The joy of London is in the wandering from one place to another and watching it all change and shape itself around you. If you're going to be a tourist in London, you could do a lot worse than


I see from Mark Evanier's blog that I may be going on strike later in the year. (I suppose the best thing about being a writer on strike is that you're still allowed to write. You just aren't allowed to give it to anybody to read...)


It seems like everyone and their pet monkey has something being made into a musical. Gregory Macguire's novel Wicked just opened on Broadway. Jerry Springer: the Opera is playing in London. I saw Eric Idle's Greedy Bastard tour in November and he let it slip that they're working on a musical version of "Holy Grail" for Broadway. (I could go on forever...)
Have you ever been approached to have something of yours put to music?

(pictures Crowley and Aziraphale tap dancing while singing "Where Oh Where has the Antichrist Gone; Where oh Where Could He Be?")

Oh man...

Which reminds me of some very cool news: Jerry Springer The Opera is coming to Broadway -- for details.

No-one's ever asked Terry Pratchett and me if they can turn Good Omens into a musical; but there's a theatrical WOLVES IN THE WALLS that Dave McKean and I have given our blessing to that I'll give you all more news on as it evolves, and Stephin Merritt wants to do a musical version of Coraline (yes! your children will run screaming from the theatre! But screaming beautiful songs!).

The current Irish production of The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish has a song in it, but only one.

I can't imagine American Gods as a musical, although a Neverwhere musical or a Stardust musical might be kind of fun.

Of course, you never know what people will make into musicals. My friend John M. Ford just sent me an e-mail about UNDERSTANDING COMICS: THE MUSICAL in which he included some lyrics from one of the proposed songs... I forwarded it to Scott McCloud. It seemed the kindest thing to do.

And mentioning Neverwhere reminds me of this:,11711,1130611,00.html which is a faintly grisly news story that I made up in 1997, while writing Neverwhere the novel, and was faintly surprised to see it had occurred pretty much as I had described it, only in real life.