Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Christmas in England

Two and a half hurried days in London before Christmas. It's a great city to be in at or just before Christmas.

I went to the City University Club Annual Steak and Kidney Pudding lunch, which takes place on the last day the club is open each year - 1840s food and my favourite meal. A senior London banker told me that about 40% of people in the City like Brexit. It's mostly European immigrants who object.

Then Chelsea, an enchanting though morally ambiguous place, and a drink in The Surprise with an old friend. It is many years since I lived round the corner aged 24 and I felt emotional. 

Then the carol service at the Brompton Oratory where the choir, choice of carols and atmosphere is incomparable.

The next day the British Museum which is the most wonderful thing in England. A remarkable collection of stolen goods said one left-libertarian friend once observed. This is precisely the wrong outlook. It is a glorious monument to the British empire, an empire which did more good than even the Roman one.

A man in Waterston's in Piccadilly who looked and sounded exactly like David Cameron told me the sales of kindles fell off to almost nothing. E -readers were just a fad.

The man in Henry Pordes bookshop is one of the last links with the London I knew in the 1980s. We discussed 84, Charing Cross Rd, the charming book, play and film, based on letters written by an American to a bookshop. He said that not only was the address now a McDonald's but it was the address of a service lift.

I said that the book had introduced me to Landor and this wonderful sentence, which is perhaps my favourite in literature.

There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave : there are no voices, O Rhodope! that are not soon mute, however tuneful: there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last.

The bookseller said no one reads Landor any more. 

I told him Landor threw his cook out of the window into the garden below and then cried out, 'Oh God I forgot the daffodils'. 

Where did I read that? I suspect in Frank Muir.

I thought, when young, that one had to read Landor. I remember going up to Cambridge hoping to meet people who had read authors like Landor, Leigh Hunt, Robert Burton, 
Macaulay and being disappointed. 

The people I was at university became richer than me though, despite their scanty reading. As Dr Johnson said, it is amazing how little literature there is in the world. 

One or two became dons and one became a Tory MP (my childhood ambition) and then tried to kill himself, poor man.

As someone said, failure is not the only penalty for sloth. There is also the success of ones friends.

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