London, The Best Shitty In The World
I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but one of the biggest misconceptions people have about journalists is that we're constantly being sent loads of amazing free presents by PR people. Most of the stuff we get sent is shit, and Patrick Dalton's new book was no different. Shit London is a city-straddling compendium of shit, rammed full of shit-for-brains people doing dipshit things in the shitty city in which we, and many of you, have made our homes. As a result, it's frequently hilarious. I picked up the phone to talk to Patrick.
VICE: Hey Patrick, how's it going? Seen anything shit today yet?
Patrick Dalton: I haven't left my house yet, but y'know, sometimes you need to take the day off. I find myself looking for things that are shit all the time now. It's taken over my life.
That's great. How and when did that process start?
I'm not sure. A couple of years ago I was alright with myself, now I think I'm a cunt.
It's definitely made me more pedantic. There's a pub on Liverpool Street that does my head in, for example. I think it's supposed to be called Dirty Dick's, but there's no apostrophe, so it just becomes a statement – "Dirty Dicks". Pedantry's a trait I hate in other people, and now I hate it in myself. The whole process has made me loathe myself a bit, really. I used to go out and take photos of my friends at parties, but now I just take photos of shit graffiti and stuff.
You wouldn't do it if you didn't enjoy it though, right?
Yeah, it has its moments. I'd never been to Leyton before, but travelled all the way out there once just because there's a hair salon there called Peculiar Unisex Hair. I always feel like I'm on safari. My Facebook group "helped" to get me out of the house. I would just stay in, taking shots out of my window, but as more people became aware of the collection of shit I was putting on the internet, the more suggestions for locations I got.
Someone told me I should go out to Kilburn, for example. It was a fucking goldmine.
Would you say Kilburn is the shittiest place in London?
That's a tough one. No, I think I'm yet to discover the shittiest place. Tooting market on a Saturday afternoon's good, as is New Cross. I don't actually think that London is shit. I think there's a little bit of shit in it, but the word "shit" in the title refers to all of London's random, indefinable stuff. Its ephemera. It's not that shit really is it, this city?
Oh no, not at all. I like it here. But do you think these little floating islands of crap contribute to the sardonic sense of humour that's always seemed to make sense in London?
Completely. London has a great sense of humour. One of things it's best at is opportunistic graffiti. People just see something and think, 'Right, I'm gonna change that now'. I love how those things don't last a second before someone goes 'Fuck off'. In the book, there's a picture of a sign that reads "Gun Street Closed". Underneath, someone's written "Run Out of Guns". I like that. I can't get enough of it.
I saw another one on Brick Lane the other day. Some company down there have hired a stencil artist to write on the sides of the shops, "If you could join all your friends on Facebook one day and get them to all come out shopping, what would you do together?" Some horrible viral marketing campaign or something, trying to make you think, "Yeah! Flashmob!" But someone's written "Kill Myself" underneath it.
Then there's the guy who owns the really rape-y looking shop in South Kensington with stickers all over the windows accusing everyone else on the street – rich, professional-looking lawyers and estate agents, etc – of trying to drive him out. One of them says "Stop using my body as an internet and manipulating me unlawfully for your state organised criminal aspirations".
Brilliant. Do you subscribe to any grandiose notions about this book contributing to some overarching narrative about London? Or do you think that'd be a wrong turn to take with Shit London?
I think it would be wrong. I do think, though, that if you're living in a town up in the North East and you see London on The Apprentice, it looks amazing. Even I see that and think, "Shit! I wish I lived there." But obviously that's not London – the kind of things that fashion the city are the smaller details. You have to look inward at them. You can't sit around talking about how big and amazing London is because it'll pass you by completely.
Do you think there's any room in Alan Sugar's gleaming future for the vegetable gun waterfall mural?
I'm not sure. What kind of message is that sending? I don't know what it means. It's raining guns. What sort of thing is that to put in a school?
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