My novel is set partly in London (the City and über cool Shoreditch) where you only have to walk down the street or take a bus to realise there’s an abundance of non-native inhabitants.
And it doesn’t need a UKIP party political broadcast to point out that the recent changes in the population of London and the consequent changes in its character are particularly linked to rights of free movement within the European Union and its expansion eastwards.
One of my main characters, Kim, is a proud German but also an equally proud Londoner and thorough Anglophile — and she’s happy to live in cosmopolitan London indefinitely. It’s the hub of her world as an artist — but the price of living at the centre is the huge expense.
Kim goes to live in the countryside and her adjustment to life outside London — in a symbolic ‘green and pleasant land’ — unfolds as a significant element of the novel’s narrative. Unlike London, with its diverse neighbourhoods and coexisting communities, Kim has to gradually assimilate into a more closed, conservative and less fragmented community, which nonetheless already hosts a large number of immigrants.
The storyline may resonate with the inevitable debate about Britain’s relationship with Europe which will rumble on for the next few years — as whatever the outcome of the election Europe is bound to be a very hot topic.
Given that I’m rather sceptical about the supposed mood of Euroscepticism in the country, I was intrigued by the reception given to Le Grand Départ — the start of that most continental of events. Over the last weekend the Tour de France staged what was effectively a takeover of large parts of Yorkshire and it rode into London on Monday.
How would the supposedly Eurosceptic British react to an invasion of foreigners spearheaded by the oldest enemy of them all? We loved it.
The road that connects Buckingham Palace with the Houses of Parliament — the axis of British government — was invadedon Monday by all things French — French TV cameras, banners in French, adverts for French supermarkets that we don’t even have in this country, the gendarmerie riding around London and even commentary in French relayed around the Mall and St. James’s Park. Surely this kind of thing would give Nigel Farage palpitations?
And the French invasion went right through London and beyond with the road to Tower Bridge sealed off because the French invasion procession was coming right past the Tower of London — look out for the crown jewels — and, as my photo shows, it caused huge disruption to the daily operation of the City of London.
Were those entire Cities financial types w ho deserted their offices en masse at 3.15pm on a busy Monday heading to the barricades to remonstrate with meddlesome Europeans whose garlic-fuelled bike ride was interfering with the pinnacle of human endeavour — swapping money from one account to the next at the speed of light?
Perhaps Nigel preferred the Tour de France to the tur din România (and if you thought I Google translated that you’d be dead right) and the little Englanders might be relieved the whole moving carnival would soon be back in the land of hundreds of fromages (hang on, isn’t that us too these days?) .
But actually the hordes of City evacuees — and the many spectators from office windows — weren’t objecting to the French incursion — they were celebrating. Because, as the Olympics also showed two years ago, there’s nothing more the British like than to welcome the rest of the world and lay on a rather good party.
London often provides the backdrop to the historic and exotic but this Tour de France was inspired because it also visited one of the most diehard conservative realms of the national consciousness — Yorkshire. ‘There’s nowt about thy fancy foreign ways that impresses me.’ And I can say that without much fear of being accused of regional stereotyping because I was brought up about three miles from the route of Stage 2.
On Sunday the cyclists pedalled through the landscape of my formative years — the foothills of the Pennines. I used to frequently walk on the bleak moors that mark the Lancashire-Yorkshire border (the landscape that inspired the Brontës, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath amongst others) and the aerial views of the hills, valleys and reservoirs between Haworth, Hebden Bridge and Ripponden looked forbiddingly beautiful on television.
I would have loved to have travelled up north for the race. The atmosphere amongst the 10,000 people who lined the route in the mile or so of the race where the route crossed on to the Lancashire side looked incredible – and what might not have been obvious from the television pictures was that, as the main roads were closed all day, the vast majority of the spectators in this section had to walk or cycle three miles, involving a near thousand feet vertical climb from the valley below.
I came across some amazing photographs on Facebook of Carrefour floats and French motorcycling gendarmes passing flag-waving crowds on roads in places so inhospitable that there are no houses for several miles (and these photos had bikes on them unlike mine — which failed to capture any cyclists due to various camera disasters). The crowds gathered only a couple of miles away from some of the most notoriously desolate peat bogs on the Pennine Way.
The landlady of the White House Inn, on Blackstone Edge — one of only two dwellings along a five mile stretch of the A58, remarked that the visit of the Tour de France ‘made me proud to be British‘.
This isn’t as bizarrely contradictory as it sounds – welcoming visitors is something the British take pride in – and is at odds with the rhetoric of the isolationists and Eurosceptics.
My fictional idyllic village has made many foreign residents feel very welcome — American art lecturers, Polish cooks, Indian techies and so on — and they play a full part in English country life.
While the Tour de France was a novelty and a spectacle it still showed a desire to engage with Europe – and even better if it was also an exercise in the indulgence of another typical British trait — celebrating an excuse to get drunk.
The caravan that travelled through Yorkshire and into the heart of London was a peculiar celebration of French and Yorkshire promotions — big Visit Yorkshire floats, motorised Fruit Shoots and a speeding Carrefour mountain.
The whole spectacle showed how the British embraced a temporarily transplanted icon of Europe in a way that Jeremy Deller might describe as celebrating ‘Joy in People’ — even if they were mostly French and on bikes.
Do you think the Tour de France confounded the Eurosceptic stereotypes — I’d love to read any comments below.
The Hokey Cokey seems to possess the same level of serious reasoning as did last week’s unconvincing and desperately tactical David Cameron speech on an ‘in-out’ referendum on British membership of the EU. His gambling with the country’s political relationship with its nearest neighbours and biggest trading partners infuriated and depressed me but it may not be such a bad thing for my novel Contrary to his short-termist intentions, I suspect he’s raised the political profile of one of its main themes.
While there’s little overtly political in the novel (or this blog), the plot and characters unavoidably raise issues regarding Britain’s relationship with Europe (and, to some extent, the rest of the world). The novel also goes further – highlighting the differences between London and the rest of the UK – which are probably more marked in many significant ways than between London and other European capitals. That London is both an amazing cosmopolitan city as well as the country’s capital is something that Cameron is likely to be aware of himself. But this is a realisation that the engineering of this referendum is designed to disguise in its simplistic pandering to the those holed up in the Home Counties who see London in terms of bearskins and red phone boxes.
So, if Cameron’s speech provokes a prolonged debate the differences between ‘us’ Brits and ‘the foreigners over there’ then the novel might happily chime in with the cultural zeitgeist (how backbench Tories and UKIP must hate that word) – at least in the run-up to the election.
The Angel’s two protagonists, Kim and James, are German and English respectively. She sees herself primarily as a European, influenced by her university experiences in Berlin, but like many Europeans I’ve met myself recently in London, she’s also a committed anglophile who loves the city’s cultural diversity and unrivalled artistic opportunities. Being absolutely fluent in English, there’s no reason she sees to prevent her living here for the rest of her life.
James could only be English – on one hand a rugby-playing bloke but intelligent and enquiring with a self-deprecating attitude to British culture that’s led him into a fascination with the sophistication of Europe. In his case he has a voracious appetite for the techniques of French and Italian cooking and is beguiled but intimidated by modern art.
In a reflection of its setting and the times, the novel also has plenty of other ‘foreign’ characters — Poles, a Romanian, an American and others – and they aren’t just confined to London. However, Kim finds that attitudes can be quite different in the English commuter countryside – the kind of seats represented by the Eurosceptic Tory MPs who sadly seem to have forced Cameron’s hand into the current bodge.
(In reality, the setting for The Angel could well be David Lidington’s Aylesbury seat. Ironically he’s the current Minister for Europe and will be tasked with the thankless task of trying to dream up what on earth to renegotiate with the EU. I know he’s not actually a rabid xenophobe, having met him in person quite a few times – I know him well enough to have exchanged hellos in St. James’s Park.)
She is at first amazed, but quickly becomes accustomed, to being quizzed by amateur enthusiasts about German military strategy in the Second World War – a conflict she thinks has as much relevance to her as the Battle of Hastings does to the English. During the novel she develops a deeper understanding of English character and how that has influenced the culture of London she so value. But, equally, with her über-liberal Shoreditch and Hackney beliefs and behaviour she challenges and changes the reactionary UKIP sympathies of the middle England types — not just towards Europe but also towards their other traditionalist cultural mores.
In common with, I’d guess, the vast majority of most of the EU citizens who fill the tubes and buses in London, Kim would be incredulous that a vote on the UK leaving the EU could seriously be contemplated, especially as it is so contrary to her everyday experiences.
She’d find the referendum prospect unsettling, as well as irrelevant, grudging and ungrateful – not necessarily at face value but for the insular, sneering saloon bar bigotry that oozes from the pores of some of its xenophobic proponents. Also, thinking of an episode of German history that she does know well, as an entartete Künstlerinshe’d worry about the divisive cultural implications of ‘us and them’ attitudes, which could be the thin end of a very nasty wedge.
Not that Kim thinks the core EU countries have got everything right. After all she’s moved to London and likes it here on the periphery outside the Euro and the Schengen Zone.
It’s more that, as someone who sees the wider picture, she despairs when short-term politicking and parochial, self-delusion threatens the relative harmony of one of the most remarkable achievements in history. A previously fractious continent that spent much of the first half of the last century destroying itself has peacefully worked together — and if the worst thing the Eurosceptics can say is the EU prevents our junior doctors working a hundred hours a week then that can’t be too bad. She’d agree with the Swedish Prime Minister who tweeted in response to Cameron: ‘Flexibility sounds fine, but if you open up to a 28-speed Europe, at the end of the day there is no Europe at all. Just a mess.’
Also, part of her predicament at the start of the novel is a result of the huge amount of immigration into London in the past few years – as an artist she’s being priced out of even the lower-cost areas of the capital.
As I mentioned in a previous post, when I told the German organiser of an exhibition in Shoreditch of German artists that I was writing a novel about a German artist working in Shoreditch, the first thing he asked was what she did for money. When I said she lived in Homerton, he said that was still expensive for an artist (perhaps why all of the artists he represented hadn’t made a move to London).
I was talking about rents for rooms in shared houses with my ex-City course-mates last week (we had lunch at an Old Street restaurant so trendy the chefs wore trilby hats). Apparently in Hackney rooms in unlovely shared houses are going for the upper hundreds per month – a very significant chunk of a yet-to-be established artist’s income.
Part of the reason the novel has a European theme is that I worked for nine years for the corporate headquarters of a pan-European company. For most of that time it was German owned — a member of the Frankfurt DAX30. I mostly had German managers and got to know many German colleagues very well. In fact one of the reasons why I was recruited was that it was thought I’d ‘get on well with the Germans’.
For years I travelled on average every other week to Europe, – usually walking into work through the impressive marble lobby in Hanover (it also had a conference room suite featuring modern artworks). But I also visited virtually every other large Germany city and most other large European capital cities (as well as out of the way places like Oostende and Enschede and debauched conferences in Tenerife and Dubrovnik that provided almost enough material for novels in themselves).
But more tediously, it was often my job to try and sit in meetings and try to get all the nationalities to agree on something — usually a common approach to an IT project. One English colleague compared my job with being an EU negotiator, which to him was his idea of purgatory (there were quite a number who were peeved for years that the British company had been taken over by The Bloody Germans).
One of my tasks was to look beyond the bluster and try to identify what were true cultural differences between countries’ markets and what was common to all — which where the value is unlocked in multi-national companies and the EU itself but it also threatens comfortable vested interests.
Often people argued that they should be allowed to do whatever they liked in their countries because they were just so unique. At a peer level, there wasn’t much voluntary co-operation and the countries only tended to reach collective agreement when either offered cash to do so or be told so by the Vorstand (the board), who crucially had the power to fire a country’s manager. That’s why the idea of a looser, á la carte EU seems like a pipedream to me (and most intelligent Eurosceptics know it).
It was often infuriating but was always fascinating to observe national cultural differences – which sometimes lived up to stereotypes (often, one suspected, intentionally) .
The Germans wanted everyone to do things their way – but were so sensitive to accusations of bulldozing their preferences through that they were prepared to argue endlessly until they achieved what they thought was a consensus (usually via attrition).
It was hard to get the French to turn up – they thought if they didn’t show then they could carry on doing what the hell they liked, which is what they always did anyway.
The Belgians and Dutch participated like good Europeans but took a delight in being as awkward as they could to the Germans.
The Scandinavians were organised and a little aloof, often taking pleasure in showing how they’d quietly been beavering away and come up with a solution in Stockholm in the time everyone had been holding meetings elsewhere just to talk about doing it.
The British politely endured the protracted debates beloved of the Germans but then would react by then trying to prove them wrong by going out and wasting loads of money by ‘doing something’ in the sake of Anglo-Saxon entrepreneurialism – even if the JFDI attitude always resulted in some pathetic cowboy joke of a solution that was doomed to failure. This played into the hands of the Germans — who ended up winning most decisions just by tenacity and doggedness (perhaps that’s a metaphor for the EU as a whole?).
But it was almost taken for granted that we all conducted our meetings in English. The Germans occasionally talked amongst themselves in German but this had the disadvantage that the Dutch could usually understand them. It’s ironic that, probably more than political or economic union or the Euro, what has bound the countries of Europe closer together at a practical and a commercial level is the ubiquity of the English language, which despite its inconsistencies and irregularities can be understood, even if spoken quite basically.
Proficiency in English is a source of great pride to the northern Europeans, in particular, and being less than fluent was a large career barrier. I noticed that most Germans I met who’d been born after the mid-1970s were exceptionally fluent in English — even speaking with a slight American accent. Dutch and Scandinavians of all ages were completely fluent.
I’m in awe of all the Europeans who speak and write English so beautifully and precisely, although I was always surprised at the amount of English used natively within Europe. It’s quite common to see German billboards or products displaying some English word prominently – like, ‘Cool!’ or ‘Sexy’ – and only have the small print in German.
And, of course, a large proportion of popular entertainment – songs on the radio, films and TV and a lot of books – are either in English or dubbed or translated. In this vital regard Europe looks towards the UK – and the Olympics didn’t do this any harm. In today’s Times (firewalled) there was a story about how the Spanish have fallen in love with all things British to the extent that some middle-class parents speak exclusively to their children in English.
Native speakers, because we don’t have the near necessity of learning English to be able to interact with other Europeans, probably take a lot else for granted in terms of cross-European co-operation. The golf club Farages have no comprehension of how the single market (which even they are not lunatic enough to want to leave) only works because of the standardisations, agreements and protocols that have to be agreed.
For a small island on the edge of Europe, Britain has had an astonishing and incredibly positive effect on the rest of the continent – as is evidenced by the huge numbers of EU citizens who want to take advantage of their right to live here (especially the huge numbers of French in London). And I think this is appreciated by the vast majority of UK voters who don’t see Europe as anything like the issue that Cameron seems to suppose.
(Such is the way democracy works, many Tory MPs in safe seats know the threat to their own longevity comes not from the electorate but the ageing reactionaries who form their constituency selection committees – and does Cameron really think these people are going to be appeased enough by his referendum promise to drop their opposition to his more liberal policies, like gay marriage? Similarly, most British newspapers have no influence outside the UK, so their proprietors certainly favour more power to be ‘repatriated’ to the politicians they are able to lobby for their own interests.)
Because of the undisguised schadenfreude (oops another foreign word) with which the Euro’s troubles have been viewed by the Eurosceptic lobby, there’s no chance of the UK joining monetary union, meaning a de facto two speed Europe is already evolving. I cannot see any constructive reason for Cameron to then bring up the question of Britain doing anything so destructive to its self-interest.
It’s also ironic that the likes of UKIP and the extreme Europhobes tend to be those who go on endlessly, seventy years after the event, spouting about the bulldog spirit of the Second World War in order to justify an isolationist attitude to Europe. When they invoke this country’s ‘finest hour’, don’t they realise that was when Churchill vowed to fight back to make to make Europe a better place? ‘If we can stand up to [Hitler], all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.’ And with the anniversary of the start of the First World War looming next year, the cemeteries in France and Belgium full of British white crosses are testament to this country’s ultimate commitment to Europe – now we’re in the broad, sunlit uplands, that’s something far too important to throw around in party political games.
I wrote the following in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world â€“ looking out into the sea as our ferry weaves between the courses of various huge container ships and tankers. (Iâ€™d actually typing into a Word document to post later on but I could have blogged fromt here if Iâ€™d been prepared to pay Â£4 for an hourâ€™s wi-fi â€“ bit steep I thought).
I was a very frequent visitor to Europe until the end of the last year, flying on average on a fortnightly basis â€“ mainly Germany but also plenty of trips to Sweden, Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Portugal and even Croatia. These trips have tended to be for two or three days and to cities and hotels where English is pretty much the universal language.
Iâ€™ve spent longer in Europe on holiday but, most recently, these trips have been to Gozo (off Malta) where English is an official language and to the Algarve, where, like the Costa del Sol,Â it may as well be. Iâ€™d probably need to go back over ten years to previous long holidays in France to experience anything like the â€˜foreignnessâ€™ of the past week.
Foreignness is a relative term somewhere like Brittany. Itâ€™s stating the obvious to say itâ€™s very easy, even with a barely scraped GCE in French, to drive, shop (especially in their vast hypermarkets), have a meal and do touristy things. Not only is there a lot of standardisation of laws and regulations (traffic, for example) through EU membership but also because all Western European countries are subject to the same sort of globalisation as we suffer in the UK â€“ though perhaps not as extreme â€“ not just the French love of McDonaldâ€™s but all the consumerist brand goods that are now imported from China.
Much popular culture is converging too. I spent most of a Thursday night watching the French version of â€˜Masterchefâ€™ on TF1 â€“ a bit more of an X-Factor style audition with three celebrity judges, including an odd Johnny Depp lookalike, than our shouty version with an artificial bit of suspense over whoâ€™s the last one through. Very useful research though for me as I want to construct a fictional cookery programme in ‘The Angel’ Â in which James was a contestant.
It seems that many of the fundamentals of life in the EU are homogenising â€“ and perhaps this is a theme that I have in the novel — evidently by having a European leading character but maybe exploring this cultural assimilation more subtly by having Kim first move to cosmopolitan, multi-cultural London as a staging post, then breaking through into areas of life that are considered sacredly British (or even English) â€“ like the pub.
Itâ€™s probably the social customs and decisions made on a local level (and perhaps influenced by â€“ relative â€“ unchangeable like the climate) such as architecture that mark the countries out as culturally different â€“ even eating habits are converging â€“ I saw ready meals and pre-prepared salads in the Super U and Carrefours.
And, of course,Â language is still the most striking and difficult cultural factor that makes cultures different. Itâ€™s not too difficult to visit for a week and order a meal â€“ but a far tougher prospect to get to a level where one can communicate on a serious level. I know the length of time itâ€™s taken for a friend of mine whoâ€™s bought a place in Spain to achieve â€˜Aâ€™ level Spanish.
I’m thinking of having Kim get quite frustrated when she realises she has the vocabulary to deal with metropolitan life but she’ll realise in the countryside that she’s back at schoolchild level English in certain fields — although maybe many of the natives won’t know how to describe certain things either.
The second reason why the blog has been quiet is that Iâ€™ve been in France â€“ nearly nine days without any internet access whatsoever, which must be my longest non-on-line period for several years.
We stayed in a gÃ®te on a pig farm, of all places, in the CÃ´tes dâ€™Armor on the north coast of Brittany, fairly near to St. Brieuc. It was a lovely location â€“ the accommodation was quite modern but the farm was a slightly ramshackle collection of buildings and an almost stereotypical evocation of the rustic French rural idyll â€“ vegetables growing in the garden, ducks and geese by a pond, a goat by the farm entrance â€“ and I saw a farmer relieving himself against a courtyard wall on Sunday in full view of our front door.
Not really very near St.Brieuc â€“ about 150 kilometres away and actually in Normandy â€“ is Mont St.Michel. I went there probably over 25 years ago and all I can remember is crowds and an abbey on the top â€“ the sort of sight that Iâ€™ve since thought is probably better seen from about five miles away and anything nearer tends to destroy the experience.
From a distance itâ€™s probably the closest actual modern structure to look anything like the mythical structures of romantic Arthurian legend â€“ the Isle of Avalon. Perhaps this stuck in my mind as Iâ€™ve written a reference to Avalon rising out of the waters in an early chapter of â€˜The Angelâ€™.
On returning after such a long time I had another serendipitous experience. We struggled up the steps to the abbey on the top of the mount just as the ticket office shut at 6pm. If we wanted to see the abbey then we had to come back later as there was a special evening opening starting at 7pm. I couldnâ€™t see why they didnâ€™t keep the abbey open for the duration.
So to kill time we went back down to the base of the mount which, for anyone who doesnâ€™t know the place, is about half a mile of one narrow street lined with hotels, restaurants, crÃªperies, gift shops and anything else designed to part tourists from all over the world from their money (the place was full of Americans and Japanese as well as the normal British, Belgians, Germans and Dutch that tend to visit other places in Normandy and Brittany.)
Standing among these palaces of tat built into largely medieval stone buildings I was perversely reminded of visiting Disneyland (the mount itself looks very like Disneyâ€™s Sleeping Beauty castle from a distance) and theme parks — particularly Legolandâ€™s castle with the dragon rollercoaster.
After buying extortionately priced ice-creams and looking at souvenir rubbish like snowstorms â€“ I actually saw boxes of the stuff being delivered to shops with â€˜Made in Chinaâ€™ in big letters on the side â€“ I was ready for a similar rip-off experience at the abbey.
But I neednâ€™t have worried. Just ahead of us walking into the abbey was a jerky Scandinavian on his own who was photographic everything. As soon as he entered the first big room and then ran out again to grab a photo through the narrow door, which framed a woman playing a harpsichord.
Iâ€™d read something in the Rough Guide about the evening openings having music and â€˜installationsâ€™ but I didnâ€™t realise it was such an elegantly organised event that made superb use of the alternately vast and claustrophobic plain spaces of the abbey. Occasionally artworks and sculptures were arranged along the route â€“ making great use of atmospheric, coloured lighting. See the photo for an example of how a vaulted stone ceiling was lit from beneath and reflected into a pool of still water.
These were interspersed with other musicians â€“ a cellist playing a Bach piece, a flautist beautifully playing Gluckâ€™s â€˜Dance of the Blessed Spiritsâ€™ in a darkened crypt and, in an almost magical touch, as we climbed out of a crypt up a narrow stairway and emerged into the huge space of the abbeyâ€™s nave, the emptiness was filled by the music of a harpist.
To walk through the abbey with the art, music and lights was to luxuriate in the appeal to the senses of art, music, light within the feel and smell of a building that, in parts, dates back nearly a thousand years. It confounded my expectations and was a complete contrast to the touristy clatter below. I read in the guide book that only a third of the hordes even make their way up the mount to the abbeyâ€™s walls â€“ far fewer will have been so rapt by it as I was.
There seemed to be something quite understatedly European about the use of art and classical music â€“ I know my German colleagues tend not to think of opera and classical music as somehow elitist â€“ until fairly recently â€˜Last Night At the Promsâ€™ was broadcast live on German television.Â Iâ€™d like to try and convey some of this non-self-conscious appreciation in The Angel.
Just been watching the second half of Eurovision while trying to start writing Chapter Five. I’ve convinced myself that it’s good research for the novel as it shows the pervasiveness of English across Europe — or actually the Eurovision area which stretches as far as Israel and Azerbaijan.
At least three-quarters of the countries sang in English and, so far, every single country has given their votes in English (we’ve not got to France yet). It shows the way that a younger generation of Europeans, possibly those who started secondary education after the fall of the Berlin Wall, have almost appropriated a version of English as theirÂ lingua franca.
I’ve been in a reasonably good position to follow this as I’ve worked for the last eight or so years in a job that has involved frequently meeting colleagues from all over Europe — and travelling pretty extensively. While bearing in mind my own, and that of the British overall, pretty dreadful mastery of language skills (only exceeded by the Americans), I’ve found that English speaking ability is a bit unpredictable in people over around 40 — some very educated people can struggle. However, younger people, at least those I’ve met in a work context, are almost exclusively excellent at spoken English. There’s no hestiation or nervousness — just fluency, albeit often marred to British ears by an American accent.
One reason for this is that many Europeans spend a time living in this country to help their English skills. I’ve been doing a writing course at City Lit in Covent Garden for the last few weeks and fellow course members include a German, an Italian, Â a Dane and a Japanese. The Europeans are so fluent at English that if you were to transcribe the words coming out of their mouths there would be very little difference to a ‘native’ English speaker — perhaps they would be slightly more formally accurate. While the Japanese student has quite a strong accent, she took one of the Londoners to task about her grammar — saying she was trying to learn English and couldn’t understand how the sentences had been constructed.
All this is, of course, is my self-justification for writing much of Kim’s dialogue in fluent English — but I think that’s the most accurate thing to do. I don’t think she’ll feel or behave like a foreigner at all when she’s in London — as London really is such a cosmopolitan city. (Bren Gosling’s novel about an immigrant in London is another example.) Yet, when Kim leaves, she’ll just about cross that almost tangible border between the influence of London and that of rural England. I tend to think of it in terms of motorway junctions — J5 on the M40, J12 of the M4 — but the motorways extend London’s influence out along their corridors. I see The Angel pub being the other side of London to Amersham and Wycombe — and so really in another world culturally. Kim will feel like she’s in another country then, to begin with.
But she’d be celebrating tonight with Germany having won Eurovision in the end. As the (over 30) Executive Supervisor of Eurovision said of the big flash-mob dance — ‘it was so fun’.