Nothing interests me on The Mall. And only the pelicans do in St James’s Park. But I like walking, passing, through them both. The historic route to Trafalgar Square: processions, coronations, protests… A road that feels, in its pompous greenery, soaked in the world that it’s seen. For hundreds of years, hundreds of the world’s most important people have travelled along it, whether ceremoniously or under subterfuge, it is a space not haunted by its past, but resplendent, replete, screaming of it. Not sullied, but cleaned, polished, refined. I walk, grinning, not disgusted by or despairing of the throngs I share the road with (cameras out, waterproofs on), but one of them. The King of them. Dressed in a dinner jacket and high-tops. Maybe I look like someone’s son, stumbling home from a Mayfair shag. Maybe like I’m costumed, satirising the vulgarity of the rich, the upper classes. We are such a socially, economically, culturally, divided nation. There are only threads, ideas, interests, that unite, that join us. But the main one is our unacknowledged selfishness. People portray us, the British, as bumbling, apologetic, uncomfortable in our own skins, and that may be true… But we’re also a nation hungry for its needs, for fulfilment. We may fuck with the lights off, but we’re a nation of shaggers. We may not go to casinos, but we gamble without impunity. We may cry out against the physical and social problems it causes, but we’re a nation of boozers. We’re greedy. We’re fat. We don’t bother learning foreign languages. We think we’re better than Europe because we’re an island. We think we’re better than America because we have a Queen. We’re proud. Too proud, hung up on the past we’ve had and not the future we can make. And, yes, I love it because it’s big and grandiose and loud and full of noise and life and people, but London is the wonderful place it is because it’s the bit of Britain with the most of the rest of the world in it. Europeans, Asians, Africans, Americans, it’s not the British, the English, that make London great, it’s the fresh blood from elsewhere. London is exciting in spite of the country it’s in, not because of it. And on The Mall, which aches, lusts, yearns, for a proud and glorious past, this nation on the wane can feel important, can forget the decline and begin to believe in history being made here again.
I’m a bit pissed. Monologuing.