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Ducking 'n'diving issues

'London: Bread and Circuses' By Jonathan Glancey. Verso (London), 2001. 147pp. £13 '

OK ladies, gents, 'old very tight.Bear in mind, guv'nor, oi'm not one of yer professional guides but oi'll try me best.On yer left, you can see the dome of St Paul's.Now Wren, 'e was a geezer...' It was only fairly recently that I threw caution to the wind and took the obligatory tourist ride up the Thames to Greenwich and down to Kew. I thoroughly enjoyed it; a leisurely ride, liberally interspersed with comic observations from our Mockney captain. It was only after he'd pointed out the Montevetro apartment block 'by architect Norman Fostah', rather than Richard Rogers, that I realised that this was just so much bluster for the Americans on board and not meant to be taken at face value.He could have been making up the history of many of the buildings along the Thames, for all we knew, but it was entertaining.

Glancey's book, on the other hand, has not even got the entertainment value so it ladles out even more street-wise savvy to compensate.The 'point'of the book is a so-called critique of New Labour; a criticism that the government is championing not-so grands projets to mask the reality of London's crumbling infrastructure.

This is an earnest treatise told in lurid journalistic prose ('a City riverside as lifeless and as appealing as an empty fridge dumped in Barking Creek') interspersed with ill-fitting anecdotes ('Lubetkin's first major commissions had been for London Zoo, and included the poetic Penguin Pool.There were even tales of a chimpanzee driving a tractor').Eh? This is gonzo journalism without the intellectual component.

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