Friday, 9 September 2011

Wonders of the modern world, ten . . . When dinosaurs roamed north London

Other places have gnomes in their front gardens. Primrose Hill has dinosaurs.

It reminded that the great ice age stopped at Finchley Road station. Honest. Back then, there was a great ice cliff, a couple of miles high – half way down where the platform is now, I think.

One day I’m going to walk that boundary — where the ice stopped and the dinosaurs began. (Okay, I may have got my pre-history a little messed up there. But . . .)

Which leads me back to Freud . . .

I hear that Lucien — sorry, Lucian — Freud’s nephew Matthew is moving into the area, following in his great-grandfather’s steps. Elsworthy Road was the psychoanalyst’s first home in exile. Matthew isn’t living there, though. From what I hear, he’s on the other side of the park. Not exactly where Sidney Bechet or Roger Fenton lived but not far. Nor from where Sylvia Path killed herself.

I think of Matthew Freud’s forebear, Edward Bernays. He was the son of the marriage between Sigmund’s sister and his wife’s brother. Vienna-born, Bernays emigrated with his parents, becoming a true New Yorker — a top-dollar pitchman, the PR rep for the Wilson government, Lucky Strike cigarettes and, later, anti-smoking campaigners.

He either did invent both the phrase ‘public relations’ (a replacement for the word ‘progaganda’, made unpalatable by German use of it in WW1) and the practice of public relations — or, by claiming he did, Bernays convinced everyone he actually did it, even if he didn’t. Now that’s what I call public relations, volume one.

Just the kind of thing that it looks like Matthew Freud’s in-laws could do with right now, I find myself thinking.


Lo Jardinier said...

Yes, you came over a bit Sarah Palin with the dinosaur (70 million years ago)/ Ice age (about 40,000 years ago) thing. Good job you stopped right there.

I’ve noticed before the habit you Londoners have of using famous ex-residents as your landmarks, and wonder if you could tell a cabdriver ‘Left past the Plath gaff and straight up to the Freud spread’.

It’s a humanised geography which reminds me of the way no-one who comes from our village here seems to know street names. If we give the name of our square, people look blank. Since someone said ‘Ah, la maison Gely’ we’ve known how to give our address. Gely was not the name of the family we bought the house from, or even the one before, but the owners before that. That’s pre-war at the latest. I still haven’t figured out the rule for how you get to name a house. Perhaps, like your examples, you’re got to be dead a while first.

Peter Silverton said...

oh, i did know what i was doing when i conflated the dinosaur and the ice age - on the other hand, i'm pleased that you thought i might not be teasing - that means the tease was even teasier . . .

ah, the topography of meaning . . . from willesden to cricklewood, the town is looking good . . .