Think Local (Britain in Lockdown, Part 6)

In late April, I interviewed Chris White, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on St Albans District Council. Chris is also a county councillor. We spoke about the challenges COVID-19 has created for the district and for the council, how the crisis has reshaped working patterns, and why he’s concerned about the future funding of the council. Continue reading “Think Local (Britain in Lockdown, Part 6)”

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World, Interrupted (Britain in Lockdown, Part 5)

IMG_20200404_150220It’s been seven weeks since I last slipped the surly bonds of Saint Albans district, a brief walk in the new plantation at Heartwood being the height of my ambition since then. I love watching cities disappear behind me on trains and plains, even on the small stage of England. So I’m getting a bit delirious walking the same leafy avenues, looking out at the same tarmac and streetlights, and seeing the same few people locked in their own boxes. I’m missing hugging my friends, I’m missing the crowds of London, and I’m missing pub gardens like crazy. I’m even missing Thameslink. Okay, no, I lied about that one. Continue reading “World, Interrupted (Britain in Lockdown, Part 5)”

Shimaguni Part 1: Island Mindset

IMG_4479Japanese has a word: shimaguni. It means ‘island nation‘. Unremarkable, you might think. Yet bottled in four syllables is a distillation of a supposed national spirit, the adduced explanation for everything that is unique about Japan. Not just island nation, but island mindset, island culture, island existence. You can apparently see shimaguni in the excessive focus on harmony and consensus in Japanese culture, the strange fads, the jumbled up religious loyalties, and the double economic miracle that the country enjoyed in the early 20th Century, then again in the 60s and 70s.   Fervent nationalists will tell you that Japanese simians have more peaceful social orders than mainland monkeys, and that Japanese people love the cherry blossom because they have a unique appreciation of fleeting things. Some will even claim that Japanese people hear music with a different part of the brain than Europeans or the Chinese. Serious-minded academics will swear that Japanese people can communicate heart-to-heart by a kind of telepathy due to their shared values. Who dares suggest that shared values  lead to shared assumptions? It’s hardly magic. Continue reading “Shimaguni Part 1: Island Mindset”

Mea Culpa.

At present, I work nights, in an attempt to recoup my financial losses quickly. Stacking shelves doesn’t absorb much mental power, so at night I listen to audio books and dream of new escapes. In my more histrionic moments, I cast myself as a reverse economic migrant, exiled to home to pay my debts. I never said I was a reasonable man. Continue reading “Mea Culpa.”