Donna Leon’s portrait of Venice has telling similarities to our view about what Central London has become
In yesterday’s The Times, author Donna Leon was interviewed about her latest novel, By Its Cover. Born in America, but a longtime resident of Venice, Leon made telling remarks about what the city where she lives has become:
“Venice, she says, is ‘the most concentrated essence of a man-made beauty in Europe’, but the portrait she paints of the city has tarnished noticeably over the decades. ‘When I first moved to Venice it was a quiet little provincial city with factories and offices where people worked. There was life in the streets, there were stores where people sold buttons and shoelaces. Now it’s Disneyworld, with 30 million tourists a year and just 58,000 residents’”.
“Living in Venice is absolutely unsustainable and all the city cares about is the money, money, money of the tourists. It’s terrible. Imagine how the residents feel, to be hounded out of their houses, to see any large apartment turned into a bed and breakfast and to see the profound corruption of everything in the city”.
Just like London, this beautiful city has been ruined by an influx of money. We should take stock and save what makes these respective locations attractive. We need more butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and less Bulgari hotels and Stella McCartney stores.
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Absolutely right: and RBK&C are the worst custodians of the area. Their main interest is satisfying the wants of the ultra rich.
I receive The Steeple Times as and when you ping it out, and I find aspects of your articles interesting and, occasionally, amusing, but I have to say, the tone and underlying theme is noticeably one thing: jealousy.
You may not wish to drive a gold Ferrari or go to a Bulgari hotel. You may not wish to listen to an Eastern European or Russian model discussing where she thinks that her next photo shoot should be, based upon what is a justifiable, commercially sensible perspective. You may not wish to see Old Europe’s cities turn into tourist traps. Yet, I would wager the following: you wouldn’t mind owning a more powerful and higher-performing motor car; you wouldn’t mind staying at a five-star hotel; you wouldn’t mind sitting next to a beautiful young lady with a certain amount of business acumen; and you have probably toured to Venice on at least one occasion.
You strike me as a gentleman that believes that one has the right to dispose of his wealth as he sees fit – not to be dictated to by the state with high taxation, limiting disposable income, and not to be determined by the whims or reprisals of one’s peers. Yet, you lament the free market economy and its motions when it comes to those who have more to dispose than you.
The world has changed, those that were at the top no longer are, but the behaviour of those at the top, at large, remains the same: they display their wealth, albeit in differing manners. The Brits did the same – at home and abroad – when we ruled one quarter of the world’s land mass; I’d suggest that circling the block in a outlandish, dramatically coloured sports car and riding into Jummoo on a bejewelled Indian elephant (HRH, The Prince of Wales, 1876) are not that dissimilar…
I disagree… Matthew and his contributors celebrate the great and take on the fools. I don’t find the hatred for change and jealousy that you describe but in fact a celebration of success. Lamborghini drivers who cause accidents and braggarts in the Bulgari though are not worthy of anything other than mockery. Perhaps you could write an article celebrating what you like about the changes. It would make for interesting reading Thomas.
Tom: You are right to say “one has the right to dispose of his wealth as he sees fit” but nonetheless with privilege should come responsibility. There are people starving on the streets of London and it is shameful. I walk along Piccadilly often and there are two people, young people, sleeping outside the Royal Academy and two others by the old In & Out club. I feel very sad when I see them and often take them sandwiches and apples. I know its not much but I want to help them. These rich folk living in their ivory towers just drive on by in their Lamborghinis and pay not a jot of attention. It shames us all and it shames Britain that they burn petrol as if it were water yet don’t care for their fellow man. I know that some will say “we can’t help everyone” and that it is “not the responsibility of anyone” but equally, it is obscene that these poor people sleep in doorways close to homes worth £30 million. The In & Out, for example, will be turned into a (no doubt spectacular home) that will be worth £300 million. The stark contrasts between these poor people and those who pass on by is the very reason why I lament the vulgarity and tasteless behaviour of both British and foreign people. It is not envy but in fact sadness that I actually personally feel but on a positive note, we do often celebrate new arrivals in The Steeple Times. London is a cosmopolitan place and that is great but there simply must be a readdress of the balance between the haves and the have nots.
I agree with you entirely Matthew. The pendulum has swung too far.
Happy Easter Matthew and to all Steeples Times readers and fans !
Very much agree with Matthew s response above and hope the tide will turn and we will see less provocative display of conspicuous wealth ,assorted debauchery and senseless show off.
The British gov should be doing more to safeguard the interests of British natives and working people who contribute to society and economy and not encourage the sell off to foreign predators of sometimes dubious provenance
You are obviously the sort of puerile vulgarian who thinks it aspirational to roar around our city streets making a good deal of noise and endangering life.
And from rather odd tone of your comment you are clearly American….
Euro trash, comes to mind. Drugs and kinky sex for those that have more to spend, no doubt increased disposable incomes from tax havens and undeserved bonuses. Forget adult Disneyworld and make Botswana your next holiday destination. Europe has screwed us Brits enough. Botswana is simply a game watching paradise, with the Okavango Delta’s rich array of wetlands and vast, varied ecosystems. Lion, elephant, buffalo, hippo, leopard and cheetah are all to be found here, rhino have recently been reintroduced, and the camps and lodges our specialists have found are among the best in Africa. It is where the magic is.
LONDIN IS ON THE WAY to become a soul-less money park, at least what it is referred to as prime London, great pity and shame on the greedy Councils and aborrent system that encourages the trend and is oblivious to the long term and irreversible damage eroding everything , just like Venice- through different factors – is getting rotted and swamped , well on the way to extinction
No surprise at your choice of holiday destination then
At my pleasant house deep in the Lot Valley: if you would know where that is….which I doubt.
It’ certainly not jealously Thomas William Forster. Inequality is all around us as it has always been and I applaud Matthew for highlighting it on this thread. Rather than attacking the messenger for his article with which you seem broadly to agree, what are you doing yourself to redress this staring inequality ?