Britannia Moribundia


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The sheer functioning success, civic acumen, and high living standards of much of Western Europe seem forever beyond England. In many ways, the country remains relentlessly third-rate (in Philip Larkin's pained phrase, the "First slum of Europe") ­ afflicted by an ongoing social psoriasis of hospital crises, train crashes, shutdowns, strikes and crime waves.

This is where England most truly excels: in all the characterful shabbiness of its drizzled parks, soiled launderettes, frayed tailors, abject chemists, sparse barbers, bare foyers, dun pubs, weary Legion halls... and cowed solitary cafes.

From an era when Britain Could Have Made It, these silently wasting emblems of Britannia Moribundia - that chronic malaise of managed-decline and shattered public services that clings to the country like a pall - are now confined to reproaching the double mochha latte merchants subsuming them.

Here then, as the cultural shadows lengthen, are some inspirational pieces from authors with their fingers - knowingly or not - on the faltering pulse of a worn-out, dingy and cherishably threadbare UK in its terminal phase. (Click here also for the recently discovered Hotel Moribundia in full pride and plume).


Anita Brookner, Diva of Desolation: Independent [18 Feb 2005]
Emma Roberts [is the] heroine of Anita Brookner's 23rd novel... Emma's fidelity to a life slightly lived is all-pervasive... Emma's mother's belief that sadness is "only bearable if left undisturbed", it transpires, has passed down to her daughter intact. That little five-word motto chills as a sort of life-long declaration and guarantee of despair... Brookner is an unflinching novelist who writes beautifully and fearlessly about subjects that other writers leave well alone... Just how do you continue in a life that does not feel viable, and negotiate days that are filled with despair; not the heightened, dramatic, literary variety but the quiet, quotidian, shameful, relentless kind?
(Susie Boyt)

David Cracknell: The Sunday Times [2 Jan 2005]
BRITAIN has one of the world's most ineffective police forces and highest crime rates, according to an authoritative report to be published this week. It says the police spend too much time behind desks instead of tackling and preventing crime. The result, it says, is that crime is "a very low-risk activity for the criminal"... The rise in crime in the UK is "so spectacular" it is "difficult to comprehend", the report argues. Home Office claims that crime in Britain is falling and at "historically low levels" are false: the country is now "a seriously crime-afflicted and disintegrating society". The damning and controversial study from Civitas, the right-of-centre think tank, is bound to provoke criticism from British police forces... The report concludes: "The attitude of the police towards crime and antisocial behaviour has changed radically from the principles which were laid down by the founders of the Metropolitan police in the early 19th century... It adds: "England, from being a society remarkably free of crime and disorder, especially from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, by the late 1990s had a worse record than either France, Germany or the United States."

Oliver Bennett: The Sunday Times [24 Oct 2004]
Crime. High taxes. The threat of terrorism. Endless rain. Is it any wonder that people are leaving the UK in droves? ...'There is no doubt that the British are leaving en masse: they are heading not just to France but to points further afield... The UK population is expected to increase to around 65m by 2025: up from the 59.6m recorded in 2003. The number of incomers is fairly well documented. Less well known is the number of people leaving the country. What began as a cosmopolitan trickle in the 1980s to British expatriate zones such as Tuscany and the Dordogne has become a flood of Britons, often middle class, over 50, and peevish about the old country... Think-tanks, estate agents, sociologists and a growing emigration industry are starting to chronicle this departure. The polls show wishful thinking as well as actual movement. ICM and YouGov have both found that over half of a large sample would, in principle, move out of the country. Alliance & Leicester International bank [state] that a third of British people are actively considering a move abroad, with the bank projecting that 6m of us - over a million families - will be gone by 2020... It's a litany of British discontent: overcrowding, high crime, low crime detection, high stress, antisocial behaviour, expensive house prices, shabby pension cover, traffic jams, terrorist alerts... Speed cameras are a common grumble; more importantly, so are poor schools and hospitals... The National Health Service was a key "push factor" for the novelist Tom Sharpe, who spends much of his time in a property in the Costa Brava region of Spain: 'The number of people who are evacuating the UK is quite enormous, and it's because the country is going down the drain. The other day I was talking to a very rich Englishman. He said, 'We've had it. We're finished.''

Mark Fisher/K-Punk: [19 Feb 2004]
What is it in us that cleaves to the derelict, the deserted, and the dilapidated? It's a very English thing... For Julie Burchill... decline is a cultural weapon against the encroaching, homogenizing pressures of Amerikana. If America is turning the whole world into its living room, we're all become accustomed to equating homeliness with Americanness. Locality is fraught with anxiety: step into someone's local and you run the risk of being stared at. Step into a Starbucks and you know exactly what you're getting. You enter a routinized, highly predictable environment, impersonal and anonymous, where you won't be noticed. The dubious appeal of these franchises is their easy familiarity: no need to learn the idiolects of consumption, no need to read the specials board. No unpleasant surprises or strange conversations... Dilapidation, derelict London, we love to wander in these little Stalker-like scurf zones of underdevelopment, to escape the crushing sense of Now. Aspiration, hygiene, focus: we want somewhere to flee from this Amerika of the soul. Dereliction of duty: 'It's not so much a nostalgia as in a longing to return, as an enjoyment of the texture of loss, decay, and imperfect preservation...' That is to say, we don't hunger for the time when these caffs, these ruins and rust-heaps, were shiny-new. We savour their decay, the gentle rot...

Undercurrent [Feb 2004]
There is definitely an English strain of masochism, of 'nothing's too crap for us', and it definitely pulls against (and can be used as a defiant gesture against) US positivist bluster and 'nothing's too good for us'... there's also the whole thing about the complexity and richness of these 'rotten' experiences as opposed to the easy but flat experiences of Starbucks & co... For me anyway it's not a nostalgia for anything I've experienced in my lifetime... It's more the joy of discovering things that appeal in this (seemingly) undefinable way. Surely no-one sane would argue there's anything necessarily nostalgic and wallowing about trying to escape from the all-pervading stink of management culture, branding, marketing etc. and that's one good thing about [caffs]... this theme of the poignancy of England's 'gentle rot', and the importance of the idiosyncratic and local in the face of its attempted global bulldozing... We need to be proud of our rotting remnants rather than our borrowed high-gloss surfaces... The good stuff comes out of this compost of the past, not from the shiny future... In any case, given that these things motivate such strong feelings and seem such a rich seam, it's an interesting challenge to... turn the theme into a positive energy to employ against the depressing march of global blandness.

Patrick Sawer: London's Melancholy Underbelly Evening Standard [4 Feb 2004]
Gutted pubs, bushes sprouting out of brickwork, ornate Victorian doorways filled with rubble - this is definitely not the London of the picture postcards or the tourist trail. But for fans of the capital's hidden underbelly, these abandoned and derelict buildings carry a melancholy poignancy. They evoke memories of a more monochrome era, a pre-yuppie London, before the spread of loft conversions, slick bars and cafés...

Simon Reynolds: Blissblog [19 Feb 2004]
I went through a phase recently of feeling nostalgic for boredom, the kind you felt as a suburban child in the UK in the 70s - the utter sense of privation experienced on a Sunday around 6.00pm when it was just religious programmes... the dearth of stimuli... TV used to go off in the afternoons, there was just a testcard... no night time TV... no web, none of the surfeit distractions kids today have... It was almost spiritual, the sense of oppression weighing on the soul, nothing to relieve the tedium... it was enriching in the sense that you were forced to develop an imagination to survive it... this clinging to the decayed and decrepit, the shabby and bygone, represents a form of revolt through recalcitrance and drag against NowPop and Bling and Cappucino-isation... especially perhaps as the lick of modernising style-culture paint slapped over everything is just covering deep abiding ongoing decay...

Michael Bracewell: The Independent [22 Feb 2004] NEW
... decaying confections of fantastical architecture, rotting art deco, the dance hall glitterball and the ornamental balustrade... faded grandeur abutting sea-front dereliction... affordable, exotic, alternately camp and luxuriously sad - a kind of gilded social realism...

To a particular kind of cultural tourist, the seaside towns of England have always articulated an extreme form of romanticism, firstly in a literary idiom which would then be updated by pop. From TS Eliot's apostatical reference to Margate Sands, through Paul Nash's essay on "Seaside Surrealism", to the "sopping esplanade" from which WH Auden predicted England's decline, the seers of British modernism set out a particular - and enduring - relationship with the ritual landscape of the English coastal holiday.

I suspect that what they found there, in the protracted twilight of Edwardian gentility, was the quality Frank Kermode described as "the sense of an ending". That in some heightened poetic way, the bandstands, ornamental gardens and chilly vistas of our old resorts held a mirror to the passing of an epoch - to the gradual dimming of an earlier gaiety.

In this, the English seaside towns have developed an allegorical identity - a mood of acute romanticism in which they recollect their past within their present. In their every detail you can glimpse an earlier age - the more so in those run-down resorts which seem to articulate Graham Greene's pronouncement that, "Seediness has a very deep appeal; it seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost; it seems to represent a stage further back."

Such a relationship to nostalgia has a perverse kinship with glamour - perfect to re-enchant the whole world of pop. And as the seaside towns developed in step with the history of popular culture, so in their dance halls, wintergardens and ballrooms you can feel pop's ghosts around you...

Towards the end of the 19th century, the bravura sweep of Morecambe Bay had earned it the label, "The Naples of the North", and the resort's popularity had been confirmed in the early 1930s by the construction of Oliver Hill's breathtaking art deco Midland Hotel. By the early 1950s, the bathing beauty pageants at the Super Swimming Stadium were attended by thousands of visitors, while over at Heysham and neighbouring Middleton Sands, two big holiday camps - one built to resemble an ocean liner on dry land - combined the vivacious pleasure-seeking of the first pop age with the coast's reputation for having some of the most dramatic sunsets in the world...

the conceit of the sunset seemed to be its defining image. Morecambe had even been advertised, in the 1930s, as "The Sunset Coast", while in a more impressionistic sense the colours of the lingering twilight seemed to comprise an elegy for the long departed seaside carnival...

those fading grand hotels, silent boarding houses, dormant ornamental gardens and windswept piers is both an ultimate expression of Englishness and its plangent requiem - the "sense of something lost", perhaps, prompting nostalgia for a former innocence. It's a moment which John Betjeman caught in his poem a bout wartime Britain, Margate 1940, and which, at the beginning of the 21st century, seems equally relevant to the sci-fi lullaby of today's coastal drift: "And I think as the fairy-lit sites I recall/ It is those we are fighting for, foremost of all."

Tony Parsons: Daily Mirror [Nov 10 2003] NEW there is an alternative to Blair's depressed, dreary Britain. A real alternative to accepting that our schools, hospitals and roads will always be crap. A real alternative to accepting that this country is finished, and that we must learn to tug our forelocks to our new masters in Brussels and Frankfurt... Nothing seems to work any more. Neither the overburdened NHS nor State schools that senior Labour politicians wouldn't send their dog to - but are good enough for your child and mine. Laughable public transport. Terrible roads. Pointless strikes. Is Ted Heath in the house? It's like the Three-Day Week, from Monday to Sunday.

Nick Cohen: Observer [Oct 12 2003] NEW
Recent headlines from British newspapers show the country's infrastructure in meltdown: "Power blackout traps 250,000 Tube travellers"; "Weekend of rail chaos 'only just the beginning' "; "Train was 'almost derailed' as it tried to make up time"; "Hundreds of rail station upgrades abandoned in cutbacks"; "Anger as 70-mile train trip takes nine hours in heat". (And that's just the transport system-similar crisis headlines regularly crop up about the education, police and health sectors). Increasingly, Britain feels as if it is waiting for a train which never comes; the Tannoy announces delays will soon be over, but nothing changes and the passengers are left staring blankly into the middle distance. Some of them, however, are deserting...

Stephen McClarence: The Times [22 Jan 2000] NEW
Scarborough... People come in winter because they love the sea and the bleakness of it. Out-of-season, seaside resorts become towns-by-the-sea. Their residents re-colonise them. The shutters are pulled down, the deckchairs stacked away, half the fish and chip shops close and the amusement arcades are eerily silent and the beaches are deserted

Nikolaus Pevsner visiting Scarborough in the 1960s for his Buildings of England commented on the town's : "High Victorian gesture of assertion and confidence, of denial of frivolity and insistence on substance than which none more telling can be found in the land"

Scarborough started out as a spa, full of classy shops. The classiest of them has only recently closed: Greensmith and Thackwray, Indian and Colonial Outfitters, was the place to stock up on pith helmets and plus-fours. Now only its trim gold sign survives, an odd fragment of imperial splendour on the no-nonsense Yorkshire coast. There is still plenty of Victoriana to while away a cold winter's day. Among groves of laburnums, Wood End, a natural history museum, is the former home of the three Sitwell siblings whose library - through a conservatory of potted palms - is lined by forgotten books that raised a small literary storm a lifetime ago.

Customers at the town's Harbour Bar are brace themselves for the day's first chocolate nut sundae or vanilla milk shake float and a waitress is spooning red jelly into a glass bowl. The bar, little changed since it opened in 1945, is one of Scarborough's greatest glories. Its decor is a sunburst of yellow and white, a banana split recreated in Formica. The walls are lined by mirrors and slogans. "Get your vitamins the easy way," "Eat ice cream every day." Or: "Ice Cream! Nutritious! Delicious!"

Nick Cave: Guardian/Weekend [Feb 1 2003] NEW
These days Cave lives in Brighton. He says there's a lot he loves about 'the disappearing England' - the walled beaches, the seaside promenades and the manicured lawns...

Nick Foulkes: Evening Standard [Nov 2001]
Kentish Town Road is a foreign country; they do things differently there, or at least they do things differently at number 213. This is the location of Blustons, an old-fashioned dress shop, a blast from an altogether more genteel past.

The lino floors; the electric bar heaters; the sewing machine that was second-hand when the owner's grandparents bought it in the early 1900s; the jazzy pine-effect wallpaper that creates a bizarre faux-Scandinavian wainscoting. If English Heritage had any sense it would slap a preservation on the place immediately.

Then there is the window display. The recessed double-fronted layout with its glassed-in units creates a mini-arcade and, while it is not quite the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, it is a showcase for the window-dressing talents of Rita Hemington, who has worked at Blustons since 1946.

The homogenisation of our high streets is a crime against our culture. The smart ones get the international clones - Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Starbucks and Gap; while those lower down the socio-economic hierarchy end up with Nando's, McDonald's, Blockbuster and Ladbrokes.

Which is why Blustons is wonderfully subversive. This outfitters for ladies of a certain age, and sometimes certain size, is a living museum. Not so long ago, every high street had a Blustons...

Instead of forcing itself to fit new trends, Blustons has chosen to age with its customers. "I will stay here and when I feel I have had enough I will either let or sell the shop," says Mr Albert. "A double shop on the high street will always be in demand.

Anton Szandor LaVey: Washington Post Magazine [Feb 23 1986]
IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS since Anton LaVey shaved his head and declared himself high priest of the Church of Satan... LaVey doesn't worship Satan. The devil is a symbol of man's carnal nature - his lust, greed, vengeance, but most of all, his ego... LaVey... explains the magical power of being different, for difference's sake: "The word 'occult' simply means hidden or secret," he says. "Go to the record store, to the corner where no one else is, where everything is dusty and nobody ever goes... it's a lead-pipe cinch that there is not another person in the entire world who is (there) at that time. If there's anything, any frequency, any power that exists anywhere in this cosmos, in this universe, (it is here that) you're gonna stand out like a beacon! It truly makes you elite."

Iain SInclair: Fortean Times [Jun 2001]
Everything is quietly breaking down... there are definite advantages to staying in the same spot for long periods of time. Partly you accrue information in a very slow, natural way, and partly you can see how the city breathes and changes. There's no way of being disturbed just by novelty.

However, I've been less comfortable of late here than ever before. Things are boiling up quite fiercely from this random patchwork of gentrification. As one part gets nicer, so the surrounding bits will become more ferocious. Now those contradictions are starting to bite in a serious way.

The latest fright sheet that came through from the council says that car crime involves cars being loaded onto lorries and taken away. There were people being arrested on our square doing crack deals, there've been stabbings -if you'd read all this a few years back you'd think they were describing New York. Superficially it's quite calm, but there have been maybe ten or twelve killings here just lately, and they hardly register.

There's ordinary, everyday things too, like the post hardly operates any more, it's completely random whether you get it or not - everything is quietly breaking down. Movement around the city through public transport is impossible. That's one of the reasons I began walking everywhere, because it was quicker!

AA Gill: Sunday Times [Sept 9 2001]
We're in for a dire decade..." (Britain is) A place of seedy, comfortable decline, of clubbable anger and unfinished crossword puzzles, of splenetic punning letters to the editor about the decline in grammar... A country scratching a lazy irritation at sagging doorjambs and late trains, whose greatest attribute is a collective, smelly tolerance... A country of public insouciance and private, grubby guilt, where you can believe anything as long as you don't believe it too fervently. A country where the highest aspiration is for a quiet life...

Ken Clarke is one of the old devils. The world he would have us slouch in is Kingsley Amis's 1950s. Habitué of smoky jazz bars, lovingly wiping old vinyl with corduroy sleeves before gingerly dropping the Bakelite arm of the trusty old Grundig.

Lover of soggy bacon sandwiches and brown sauce, of company dinner dances and surreptitious continental weekends, of minor public schools, minor ambitions and minor vices, his scuffed Hush Puppies jabbing the unresponsive pedals of a reluctant MG to motor into the country for a pub
lunch with a popsy.

With Two-Way Family Favourites on the wireless and a tartan travelling rug in the boot, Clarke's England is a place of seedy, comfortable decline, of clubbable anger and unfinished crossword puzzles, of splenetic punning letters to the editor about the decline in grammar and opening batsmen.

A country scratching a lazy irritation at sagging doorjambs and late trains, whose greatest attribute is a collective, smelly tolerance, where a chap will put up with almost everything, which means he won't care about anything enough to get out of a chair.

A country of public insouciance and private, grubby guilt, where you can believe anything as long as you don't believe it too fervently. A country where the highest aspiration is for a quiet life and where, as Kingsley put it, the three most depressing words in the language are 'red or white?'

Julie Burchill: The Guardian [Nov 25 2000]
You can occasionally find good parts of Britain - Porthmadoc in Wales is another - where the American takeover seems never to have happened..." I was initially attracted to Eastbourne because of my hotel fetish; the 125-year-old, five-star Grand is simply the most magnificent beast in the whole of the south-east. But personally, I also love the tranquil, Morrissey-ish melancholia of English seaside resorts out of season: with their Winter Gardens and bandstands, tiny palm trees and carveries, they are among the few places where you can still imagine what the 1950s felt like, what a world without America would feel like. Eastbourne is strange and beautiful, like Scandinavia or the moon, with rather more to see and do.

The Grand Hotel looms over Eastbourne as defiantly and definitively as the Statue of Liberty loomed over Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes; it reared up at us out of the night, ice-white and towering, like something out of St Petersburg. All by itself, set back from the road, scorning the neighbouring hotels whose names also recall the glory days of the English seaside - the Albany, the Burlington, the Chatsworth, the Cavendish - you could see why it was known as "The White Palace" in the years between the wars, when the BBC Palm Court Orchestra broadcast live from the Great Hall every Sunday night from 1924 to 1939. Dennis Potter, whose Cream In My Coffee was filmed there, called it "a huge, creamy palace".

Opulent yet easeful, the utterly lush reception has greeted everyone from Winston Churchill, Haile Sellasie and Aneurin Bevan to Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Elgar, Anna Pavlova and Paul Robeson, These days it may be somewhat reduced to Harold Pinter, Celine Dion and Liam Gallagher, but you still get the essence of the place where Debussy completed La Mer. As far back as the 1880s, the Eastbourne Grand was, a byword for luxury and progress going hand-in-hand; advertisements boasted of the private omnibus to collect rail travellers, a library and public rooms lit with electric light, a hydraulic lift and separate tables in the dining room.

Eastbourne's pier is typically solid, boasting both a newsagent's and a flower shop which we certainly don't have on Brighton pier. Not suprisingly, the tattoo shop had closed down, but the charming Bar Copa at the end of the pier proclaimed itself to be the ideal spot "for sporting and cavorting". There were boat trips on offer, too: cruises round Beachy Head and speedboat rides on the thrillingly named 007. Once again, this was in pleasing contrast to Brighton - where it is easier to get raw opium than a boat-ride.

The esplanade was pleasantly melancholic: a sign threatened a whopping £500 fine for cycling on the seafront and a yellowing poster promised The Manfreds with Chris Farlowe, Alan Price and Cliff Bennett (but sadly, no Rebel Rousers) at the Congress Theatre. Best of all, in a basement beneath the Cumberland Hotel, we were Invited to "In-Step Sunday Club: Ballroom and Sequence Dancing with Peter Harvey's Hi-Fi Show". It made me miss my mum and wish Alan Bennett was with me and I thought how very pleasant the old English way of taking one's pleasure was, without all that neurotic chasing about and taking pictures of everything, just so the folks back home will believe you were there.

It was about 5pm on a Sunday afternoon, just getting dark, and then the most gorgeous thing happened. We went up the front steps of the Grand and into the lobby - and there, in the Great Hall right in front of us, was a string quartet playing chamber music. Smart old couples took tea at tiny tables, and as we went up in the lift, suddenly it could have been any year between 1924 and 1939. The immaculate Grand could have been the rundown Overlook from The Shining, full of between-the-war ghosts.

Being in Eastbourne was in many ways stranger, more foreign than being abroad - particularly the Caribbean, which in its more profitable enclaves can feel like lodging in a luxury franchise of America.

But you can occasionally find good parts of Britain - Porthmadoc in Wales is another - where the American takeover seems never to have happened. And never underestimate the refreshing qualities of sneaking off the Yankee yoke, if only for a weekend.

Joanne Briscoe: The Independent 'Pleasures of Modern Life' [1997?]
I am never so relaxed as when sitting in a greasy spoon. The joy lies in the atmosphere of speckled lino, fly spattered blinds, sunlight filtered through smeared windows to hit a cloud of steam, and an eternal war between bleach and grease - sudden bright orange crusts... murky beauty... vinyl and's like a daycare centre for artists, window cleaners and escapees from rehabilitation centres...the sludge dribble and snowy white napkins. The greasy spoon beats any number of suspect cafe bars given to high stools, discomfort and pavement posing.

Mark Irving: Space/The Guardian [Mar 2 2000]
local character - that precious commodity estate agents use to describe that odd mix of personal histories, decorative gestures and legislative incident which a building's architecture accretes over the years is (being) erased in a matter of days in favour of bland identity sketched out in corporate board rooms...the air of langour about (a) place, the obvious disinterest in surface, the make-do-ness of it all...real regulars...never fashionable, never will be. There will be nothing to salvage from the skip when they meet their fate since they never had much quality in them in the first place. Except individuality.

England All Over Joseph Gallivan [Sceptre]
Clive Pointing is down on his luck. He's lost his job as a geography teacher after an affair with a pupil. His wife, Tina, has walked out and he has limited access to their seven-year-old daughter, Tess. He lives in depressing squalor in a flat where somebody once committed suicide in Streatham, South London, an area choked with fumes and noise.

Though he sleeps dreamlessly and is mired in inertia, Clive needs to get a job: Tina is chasing him for maintenance for Tess. He winds up as a guide for Britannia Tours. As the novel's title suggests, this is a dream position: Clive is a dedicated observer of people and place and wants more than anything to travel around the country. What, he wants to know, does it mean to be English?

A month or so into the job, he has a very bad day. On a trip to Bath, the coach driver has a heart attack and dies. Later, Clive returns home to find that he's been burgled, although, as he notes to his Kiwi neighbour, he didn't have anything worth stealing; anyway, his ex-wife has taken it all. He resolves to commit suicide.

He jumps from a bridge. As he drifts down the Thames, we don't (as up to now) observe Clive, but shift to his perspective. He realises he doesn't want to die almost as soon as he jumps, but after being dragged underneath the churning water, he discovers that he is one of the "lucky 50 per cent of floaters".

Gallivan captures this terrifying miniature epic beautifully: the loneliness, the fear, the incidental beauty. Next, Clive wanders the streets, and ends up sleeping rough; everything has a piercing, unnatural sharpness.

On Clive's return to work, Gallivan extends this sense of personal panorama to his journeys around the country itself; ironically, while to his clients he is a guide, to us he is a tourist in his own land. Milton, Shakespeare and Wordsworth are all name-checked movingly and unlaboriously.

Somehow, amid the standing stones and motorway service stations, castles and crude heritage sites, Clive finds peace. He finally elucidates what the country means to him in a wide-ranging, wild rant at the novel's end: 'Car-boot sales. Vacuum-tube valves. Paddle boats. Roman numerals. Monogrammed hankies. Cones. Knot gardens. Troublemakers. Quink. Asian Babes. Victorian swimming baths. Tartan shopping trolleys. Scabs. Tank crossings. Frog crossings. Pelican crossings. Pigeon fanciers...' And the list, rather brilliantly, goes on." [TIM TEEMAN: Times March 18 2000]

Ian Penman: The Face #96 [Apr 1988]
It's beginning to seem as if there isn't a pub extant which hasn't been done over. Pubs - which used to be oubliettes of exquisite boredom and insularity - are everywhere turning into social equivalents of Wish You Were Here...the invasion of the carriage lamps is almost complete. I used to relish lunchtime at my local hostelry. They did one thing and they did it well - ham, chips and egg. The other lunchtime I adjourned there to find Whitney Houston at full volume and a pan cultural menu sans ham. All this updating is a tacit confession that there is no longer any such thing as a shared present such as pubs, (cafes) waiting rooms, television - Britain never really had modernism as such: we leaped straight from peasant underdevelopment to the jumble sale hyper-reality of the post modern.



Classic Cafes | Iain Sinclair interview

Classic Cafes | Quentin Reynolds interview

Classic Cafes | Mr Burkeman interview

Classic Cafes | Pellicci interview [ES magazine]

Classic Cafes | Lorenzo Marioni interview


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