Wednesday, 24 September 2008


In London all last week, securing a base while my daughter is at school in Sussex. It was worth the turning, and I realise now how much I have missed the city during my self-imposed exile on the Celtic fringe, what an insufferably precious poet here calls 'a near-island on the edge of England...where the wild landscape and the rich culture combine to create a uniquely inspiring environment. ' Maybe so for her (gush, gush) but it was edgy London, not the edge of England, that gave me the energy to write. It's an energy I can't cope with now for longer than a week at a time; and, fifteen years ago, it nearly burned me up; but it is an energy I need, like the odd sugar rush, or the high dose steroids that kept me buzzing all night during my chemotherapy. 

Nevertheless, some aspects of London - or, rather, what the City (with a Capitalist C) stands for, are still all too alive and waiting to send me scuttling back to the fringe in a fluster of moral unease. The greed of the City still stands proud amongst the beautiful buildings (like the glorious Gherkin) that have sprung up in the decade since I left. And what the City stands for - boom and bust, sky-high profit and crushing losses, was highlighted last week with the Lehman Brothers demise sending shockwaves through the heart of London markets, emptying the champagne bars as the pubs of Fleet Street were emptied twenty years ago with the death of the old print unions and the bloodletting that went therewith. But some still saw a curious profit to be made from the Lehman crash. At Canary Wharf, the morning after, like pickpockets on the aftermath of some great battle, representatives from the Teacher Training Agency set out their stalls in a bid to lure the fired bankers with the promise of a rewarding new career in education. Is education thus devalued  then - a last chance saloon for chancers in striped suits who can never see their way again to making a million in bonuses? Oh doh re mi...

At least the arts are still alive and kicking up in London. Saw a fantastic lunchtime concert at The Wigmore Hall. Jim Molyneux, BBC Young Musician of the Year, hitting the drums and playing some beautiful, haunting pieces on the maremba, an instrument that I have never heard in the flesh before, and what a captivating instrument it is. Rejuvenated by this experience, and by the ever-enthralling Wallace Collection close by, I am now looking forward to lunchtime concerts to come, and to walking those Soho streets again, mostly purged now of sleaze and sex (except for Rupert Street) but chock-full of characters and plots. I know my limits though: unlike Dick Whittington, I will never make Lord Mayor (has there ever been a Lady Mayor of London?); and I could never write a poem about the place as cheesy as Wordsworth's 'On Westminster Bridge'.  Dr Johnson had it exactly, and succinctly, right about London when he said that he who tires of the city tires of life. And I'm not tired yet.

So am I now a resident of Cornwall with a base in Mayfair, or a resident of Mayfair with a home in Cornwall? Chicken or egg?

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