Tag Archives: night

Briefly Noted: Sukhdev Sandhu’s Night Haunts

Night Haunts front cover

Why write yet another book about London? Why buy one? Why read it once it’s been bought?

The most obviously unusual thing about Sukhdev Sandhu’s Night Haunts: A journey through the London night (2007) is that it’s very small — running to a mere 140 pages, not all of them covered in prose — that it weighs only a few ounces, and fits easily into a handbag or jacket pocket. Since there is something about the incomprehensible vastness of London that breeds fat and unwieldy volumes, by creating a work so markedly at variance with the industry standard, Sandhu has already achieved a neat feat of authorial positioning. Early on, by a similar token, Sandhu effectively distances himself from he calls ‘the self-obsessed maunderings of psychogeographic writing’. So to put it more bluntly than Sandhu ever does — the author’s good manners are by no means the least remarkable facet of this in many ways compelling little volume — the diminutive format telegraphs that, no matter how well their books may sell, we are not dealing here with an Ackroyd or a Sinclair, let alone the sort of desperately heart-felt novel in which the author refuses to waste a single London thought, experience or half-forgotten borrowing from someone else’s marginally better book.

And then there’s that subtitle, pacing out the boundaries of Sandhu’s chosen subject-matter. Night Haunts comprises a series of short, interconnected essays in which Sandhu encounters, through a succession of nocturnal journeys, the human face of present-day, dusk-to-dawn London: not ‘nightlife’, for which Sandhu expresses a very fully-formed contempt, but rather the mysterious hidden life that goes on, day in and day out, when most of the Metropolis is sleeping, or at least trying to sleep. Continue reading

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Dark matters: on Jacqui Smith’s refusal to walk at night in London

Having previously assumed that our Home Secretary was a tough sort of creature — her no-nonsense school-teacher stare, proudly wonky teeth and assertive décolletage suggesting as they do reserves of self-confident robustness unavailable to a mere Willie Whitelaw or Michael Howard — she now reveals herself as a delicate soul, frightened to venture out onto the streets of smart Kensington, let alone Hackney, after dusk has fallen.

Who are we to question her judgement? Strictures of personal safety are, inevitably, intuitive in nature, predicated more on ‘what feels right’ than on reason, less on the rational stuff of facts and figures than the proliferation, locally, of those yellow signs that the police erect in the wake of rapes, assaults and murders. Such decision relate, more than anything, to issues of personal vulnerability, the chance that some really bad thing that almost never happens to anyone might, could, should in fact happen to you. Continue reading

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