This was written in 2012 for From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, our book about the effect of the Olympics on London.
Iain stared glumly across the stained formica.
“It’s like I was telling the sculptor Rachel Whiteread, Will, when I was explaining to her how Hackney’s pre-Games decontamination and realignment into a fugitive cartography of designer lock-ups and guerrilla sofa bars had created a hallucinatory Ballardian nexus of dystopian interzones and put me right off the idea of getting a cat – some of the ley lines they dug up to build the Basketball Arena had been there since the days of King Lud.” He paused. “Look, I drew her a map.”
Iain passed Will a piece of paper. It was a menu from a Turkish cafe in Dalston, covered in biro scrawl and with a small piece of what looked like chargrilled aubergine stuck to one corner. Will pulled a face.
“Are those conduplicated testicular orbs with an intermedial indurated intromittent organ extravasating prostatic fluid?”
“A spunking cock and balls? Yes. I think she must have drawn them when I wasn’t looking. There are more all over the back, look. I think she gets a bit frustrated, just filling the negative spaces inside objects with concrete in order to make people think twice about things.”
“Hmmm,” said Will, slipping the menu into his pocket. “So, tell me: what tactical methodology do you advocate that we implement as a counterpoising praxis?”
“What do I think we should do about it? Well, I suppose we could try walking around something. Like the M25, or the Olympic Pa…”
“Can you execute an intramental reinstauration of the inimical predicament that eventuated when you essayed an experimental circumambulation of Peter Ackroyd?”
“Do I remember what happened when I tried to walk round Peter Ackroyd? Of course I do.” Iain paused. “He didn’t like it, did he?”
“He articulated his grievances to the constabulatory functionaries.”
“He called the police, yes. But it was taking much longer than I’d anticipated.” Iain leant forwards, dropped his voice to a whisper, and gripped the plastic ketchup bottle on the table in front of him with both hands. “I actually wondered afterwards whether – ” he slowly rotated the rotund red receptacle between his palms – “he might have been turning round.”
Will gazed out through the steamy, net-curtained window.
“I suppose,” he said at last, “we just have to accept that it was all a lot of fun, and most people enjoyed it.”
Iain stared at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”