SOME COUNTRIES INSPIRE ME—AND I WARM TO THEM
OTHERS DO NOT. NONETHELESS, THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR SIMPLE FAMILIARITY.
Although I am Irish—Anglo-Irish if you want to include my class and social background—I was actually born in London in 1944. In fact, I was nearly killed within months of arriving on the scene when a German V.1 rocket exploded nearby. Apparently my cot was covered in broken glass, but I was unscathed—and downright cheerful.
Or so I was told. I have no recollection of eyeballing Hitler personally.
People tend to associate the Blitz (the bombing of London) with the Battle of Britain, and the early years of the war, but actually there were two major campaigns against London with the second starting shortly after my arrival.
This second campaign was the first sustained onslaught on a city with missiles—and was only brought to an end when Allied troops overran the launch sites on the continental mainland. The death rate alone from these assaults was in the tens of thousands. Add in the injured, and the casualty rate was into six figures. London was a dangerous place during WW II.
My mother had come to London to have fun (which she certainly did) and it was almost incidental that there was a war on and London was very far from risk free. She was much more scared of missing out on sex than losing her life.
She did not miss out on sex—neither during the war nor subsequently—and didn’t lose her life for many decades. Eventually, she died in Spain. Her third husband was Polish. As I have mentioned many times, I am the eldest of 12.
I tend to think of myself as a European for very good reasons. The family is closely connected to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Germany, Austria and Poland—that I know of—and some of the women I have been fondest of in my life, came from Switzerland.
Though I have been to Denmark often enough, and both Sweden and Iceland once, poor Scandinavia doesn’t get a look in except indirectly. My French ancestors came from Normandy, which was so called because it was conquered by the Vikings. Those guys got everywhere.
Though I have lived in England at various times in my life—including going to boarding school here—I have never been able to warm to the country.
It was pretty drab after the war, has been politically depressing for much of my life—as it has struggled to find its way—and it is London orientated to excess. On top of that, the UK is financialized to a fault—and I happen to regard financialization as a disaster.
Britain survives regardless—and at least it has the merit of being familiar. Also, the English more or less speak English—though, based upon some of the regional accents, you would wonder.
How long will I be here?
Man plans and the gods laugh.