Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 2 February 2008

I'm a pretty even-tempered sort of person, but I could be a holy terror as a child. These days, if there's anything that risks arousing a toddler's tantrum in me, it's being ready for my mid-morning plain black coffee and finding myself stuck in a queue behind someone ordering a cappucino - or worse still, once of those dolled-up modern concoctions. There's white coffee, black coffee and if you want it sweet you put the sugar in yourself. Anything else is marketing hype.

Enough of Mr Grumpy - I did get my coffee in the end, after all - and back to Mr. Frugal. I'm a make-do-and-mend sort of person. It takes a lot to get me to throw away something broken if there's the remotest chance of fixing it. I have bought a wick for a hurricane lamp within the last five years. Today I was tramping up Tottenham Court Road in search of precisely the right battery to revive a pedometer/stopwatch gadget I got for free in the first place.

En route, I noticed the Building Centre and popped in to see the exhibition on new London architecture. There are wall panels with an overview of the major planning priorities for London, but let's face it, who cares about all those discreet circles, stars, triangles and blobs that distinguish "major urban centres from "opportunity zones" from "district centres" or whatever, when the star of the show is actually this huge model of central London (yes, even the building I live in is there) with all the major new plans highlighted . No amount of earnestly wordy description and photographic mock-ups of individual new buildings (however exciting) can compete with playing God as you swoop over the whole city, or zoom in on the little cars and buses in the models of individual projects. There's something about gazing at a model that makes you feel reassuringly in control of the messy, fluid world around you. As dictators know - and revel in.

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