Sunday, June 19, 2011

Far Away Fields Are Green


From the time that I was old enough to read true classics of British children's literature such as the Oor Wullie and The Broons Christmas annuals my mother told me that "faraway fields are green". Alike later advice to my sneering and wankerish adolescent self to think about "getting a job in a bank" she was unequivocally and utterly correct in hindsight. London may throw up a world of creative and aesthetic possibilities for those with time and money to spare but the quality of life now is truly questionable in the extreme for everybody else.

At my first job at the end of the Eighties here I met a young Englishman who I will call Roger because that was his name. He was an English language teacher in Spain but decided to return to the capital for one last go at making it "work". He was highly intelligent, upper middle-class, well read, humorous, affable and attuned to a raft of New Age alternatives from vegetarianism to Gurdjieff to yoga. Roger's spiritual immolation at the brutal hands of prototype-New London in the 13 week period leading up to Christmas 1987 was very tangible to observe though in that period he did make interesting comments on the future shock ahead for this city. None moreso than when he looked at the first edition of the London Evening Standard's glossy supplement for the ueber-rich and dismissively hurled it across the office as if he had picked up a chilled used condom.

Roger also quoted Van Morrison lyrics to me that I subsequently can source to three particulary magnificent songs - Astral Weeks, You Don't Pull No Punches But You Don't Push The River and Alan Watt's Blues. Shortly before his re-emigration to Madrid on Christmas Eve of that very year, Roger told me that one December morning he was waiting at a bus stop in South London daydreaming to himself when the ubiquitous white van passenger pulled alongside and commented directly into his face "What are you looking at ...you stupid fuck". This being the quality of indigenous British citizen we have allowed to walk away - unequivocally forever - in recent decades.

That in turn reminds me of a midnight moment some years back when going along Camden High Street in New London looking for a cash dispenser. It was like walking through the Battle of Stalingrad except back then the very dogs of that city used to swim the Volga to safety overnight. In traversing the scumscape of rubbish, spunk, phlegm, minicabs, drugs, grime, dog's dirt, piss, nightbuses, miniskirts, rain, threat, cardboard, hamburgers, VD, vomit and hordes upon hordes of Euroteens and twentysomethings "living the dream" I do clearly remember observing to my partner that "At least in Belfast when I was growing up we KNEW it was shit".

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