torsdag 21 april 2011

London in 2011: year of the Metal Rabbit (it´s got huje teef like this)

It´s another year gone by since the Romans left their forts here. Another year gone by since Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament, later giving rise to the graphic comic V for Vendetta which in turn became a movie which in turn popularized the mask that V wore, and which now is being worn today by the supporters of Wikileaks called Anonymous.

Boris Johnson is still mayor. He still rides his bike about town, occasionally being involved in saving someone from traffic accidents, which he did once. Berkeley Square still stands in the postal code called West 1 in central London (W1), but it is very rare to find an nightingale sing here, like the old song says it would.

Life in modern London is both hard yet easier than probably ever before in history. It is a city of 12 million people; the capital of the United Kingdom – some would even say the capital of Europe in our time (I hope the French aren´t reading this).

It is the year of the Metal Rabbit, if we´re going to talk Chinese Zodiac. 2011. A lucky year, it´s said. Let´s hope. The New Year is on the 6th of February. Last year was the year of the Metal Tiger. So much Metal. Let´s hope it´s gold, not knives.

London in January´s a nation still fighting a war. As always. I don´t think there´s been a generation of Englishmen that have lived without England being involved in a war somewhere. Many nations do this just as a way to keep the nation together. It´s cheap (not in money), dirty, and it works, so politicians kind of stick with the formula and just keep things going. Even Caesar knew this when he fought the bloody annoying ”savage tribes” that inhabited both France, Germany and the island he travelled to and visited. The Celts, or Celtoi, were forced back to the north of England where a line was drawn and a wall was built and treaties made that they should stay behind it and never venture south. This was Hadrian´s Wall. It still stands, even though Rome fell a long, long time ago.

Or, as Caesar himself writes: ”On learning the enemy´s plan of campaign, Caesar led his army to the Thames in order to enter Cassivellaunus´ territory.The river is fordable at one point only, and even there with difficulty. At this place he found large enemy forces drawn up on the opposite bank. The bank was also fenced by sharp stakes fixed along the edge, and he was told by prisoners and deserters that similar ones were concealed in the river-bed. He sent the cavalry across first and then at once ordered the infantry to follow. But the infantry went with such speed and impetuosity, although they had only their heads above the water, that they attacked at the same moment as the cavalry. The enmy was overpowered and fled from the river-bank.” ...which only is one paragraph out of Caesar´s PR piece De Bello Gallico, On the Gallic Wars (and yes, he refers to himself in third person all through the book). He was 46 years old that day, and his death by knives from his peers in the sacred grounds of the Senate lies ten years away. This combat took place between Roman soldiers and celts 2055 years ago. In the newspapers today, Boris Johnson announced that they intend to go through with building an island on the Thames for a new airport. London needs more air-travel.

England has a new government, headed by a comedian duo called David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who seem intent on making the nation go faster down the drain than the impopular but possibly more efficient Gordon Brown. Tony Blair is busy spending the reminder of his life manufacturing excuses of why the dead from the war in Iraq aren´t his fault, you see.

Ipods are everywhere on the trains and buses; Ipads are coming now too, but more rare, seen only sometimes, and then new and wondrous in their thinness. Wifi is spreading through cafés but not everywhere: mainly in the chains, like Starbucks, Costas, Prêt (Prêt a Porter, a green food chain of sustabinable food, Ready to Go, pronounced by the locals as Prette, like soldiers in the Great War pronounced the town of three huge battles as Wipers – Ypres, site of horrible fighting three times). I once met a man who fought there. The last living cavalryman of England, he was, and, just like Caesar, he is dead now.

Preparations are taking place. The Olympics of 2012 are coming. The subway system is being given a huge once-over; as is the plumming, buildings, streets... As someone who has travelled a lot in London I just marvel at the idea that putting Olympics in central London will work. The city has no more place for traffic, no more place for people The only way to go is up (famous last words of the builders of the Tower of Babel).

And, finally, here´s the video the title aluded too. I knew you were kept waiting for it at the edge of your seat.