Friday, September 9, 2011

Moments in London

The first moment, between meetings, was walking down Old Compton Street in Soho, laden with fashion magazines (all those glossy pages make for bulk), a labour of love, on my way to browse the poetry section at Foyles and being struck by how gay the street was. This might strike the informed as a statement of the bleeding obvious but what I mean was how normal it all it felt. All moral progress is fragile - what was acceptable in an Athenian square in one historical epoch, disappeared the next (as it were) - but here, now, however briefly, was a space that felt given and right. Here was a city's cosmopolitanism (and capacity to be indifferent to difference in a healthy way) on display (though the red trousers and the blue shoes was one display a guy might have rethought)!

A connector to the second moment was remembering a 'gay event' at the University of London Union in the 80s (indoors on a Saturday afternoon) and outside was not one but two transit vans of police, lest what foul happenings might be cooked up by the queer people inside! Times do change...

On my way to my evening's event on innovation, I strolled through Cartwright Gardens past Commonwealth Hall, my home for two years (no blue plaque yet but I am working on it)!

I realized suddenly that it would be thirty years this October since I crossed its threshold one autumnal Saturday afternoon, unloading my trunk from the parents' car to begin a life of independence (as it is called).

I was swept over by a rejuvenating sense of what an adventure it has been, is being. A sense easy to lose track of in the folding events of every day. This was in spite of my not being able to claim that it were the happiest time of my life partly because it had a strand of unsettling misery that in fact ran right through it, partly because life got a lot more interesting, and finally my hope that happy riches continue to lie in store!

The innovation event was held at Logica whose offices are in the rejuvenated area around King's Cross station (that thirty years ago were seedy and steamy indeed) and their conference room had a most fantastic view of the canals below and the hills of north London above. Fond as we English are of bemoaning our place and our hopes - here was a room that bore witness to an alternative narrative - full of bright people, generating innovations either in established firms or new start ups (and many of the later created by bright people from 'over there' - Eastern Europe mainly in this case). It often requires you to be seen through other eyes to value what you have.

What a difference it might make to all those grumbling souls about 'bleedin' immigrants' to wonder why it is so attractive (and a clue is that it certainly is not our 'generous' benefit system or our affordable housing)!

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