Friday, February 25, 2011

Going back to your hometown can be the experience of a disappointed tourist. We want it to open up and reveal itself as never before, to show the magic that we believed in back when we had faith and blind hometown pride. It is not the job of a great city to convert its children back to the fold, too busy impressing everyone else. So I walk across the Thames, I marvel gently and briefly at the incongruity of Wren among the concrete, of the Eye looking down at Westminster.

I stay in an apartment just north of the Tower. It exemplifies the phrase "business traveller". Th CRT TV is 16:10 and oddly small. The doors don't fit the frames, scraping on the imitation floor. The deafening bed seems designed to give lower back pain for the duration of the conference. There is a cheap Picasso print above, mocking iconoclasm. As much as a flat can be lack personality it does.

It is a grim place, one of the dark places of the earth. Eastenders' relentless overdose of misery seems an utterly appropriate standard-bearer for the fallen faces and grey skies. Bless the fashionable, the weird and the rebellious for bringing a little light to it all - London without an edge would be a sad place indeed.

The Tories have done their Tory thing. Massive cuts blended with some PR obfuscation about owning your own society by selling it off. They call it the coalition, which might a whimsical reference to Iraq. Politics seems a younger game and I long for Healey, Benn, Foot and Heath, if only for the sense that they were taking it seriously. William Hague, who appeared to be playing the Foreign Secretary on the telly, represented the best of gravitas. That has to be a bad thing. Cameron, the ultimate result of the Mandelson plan, a being of pure spin, walked the streets of Cairo. Pretty ballsy for a man touring a fucked-up part of the world with his arms-dealer mates.

So, England. I love you. Maybe we're not compatible right now.

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