In Another Country


The image is a late Rothko. When I first saw it at the Tate, I thought immediately of moonscapes, and the Wehrmacht, and that it was a tad depressing. Those cheerfully mad and middlebrow snap judgments are the sort of thing that Rothkos seem initially to bring forth in everyone. If you wait, something else happens. They bring out deeper feelings and images of the sort that layer our deeper memories, as though they somehow seep through the strata of a mind and pull things upwards. Tonight, it makes me think of the fields by the Welland valley, which in summer are blue, yellow and red, in the snatched light of a night before Spring in the lent of 2010.

London is functionally a separate State from England, as far as I have ever been able to tell. I love my city state, but I'm outside of it tonight because I've come up to a very dark part of the Leicestershire-Northamptonshire border to see my Mum for Mother's day. I don't know whether it is because it is Spring, or because my own day, which was spent teaching law undergraduates, was pleasant, or some other reason; but I feel remarkably happy.

The tube worked, and Baker Street made me think of the underground parties that inaugurated the underground railway over a century ago. In the Cathedral of light that St Pancras is, I got a cheap sandwich and a coke and got onto a clean, old fashioned train happily. An old couple read parts of the Times in front of me, a paper thing that seemed like it came from some other world to someone who hasn't bought a paper in years.

Some Northern women, on the long haul to Leeds, discussed underwear and men's shoulders and spirit mediums and how to say words behind me, their day having been spent amongst Organza silk. I have no clue about the North. They were comfortable with each other and with their own views in a way few cultures are, though perhaps I let their accents disguise the fact that I have seen people chatting in that fashion everywhere in the world; their distinguishing common feature, as of everyone else on the train, was their class. Instead of showing it in their clothes and bearing, though, they did so in the way that they interacted with each other.

Class is an odd thing, isn't it? I mean, we can invent identities and define ourselves by them all over the place, but it is almost universally the case that people are defined by others because of the material condition of their parents when they were young, and the interpretation of their humanity that went with it. I'm catholic; I'd resist the idea that race or identity or any of that stuff mattered in the face of God. But class will probably always be with us, until at least people can find some sort of justice or equality in their material condition. Given the fallen nature of people, any such equality is going to take a long time to emerge, if it ever does.

I'm especially up myself today, reader. It's because I'm in love, probably. Any potential burglars watching should know that my girl is back home and not to be trifled with.

In any event, the train journey was cheap, and efficient; the station clean, old fashioned, and lit by warm sodium lights when I struck Market Harborough, and home is, well, home. I've had a plate of sandwiches and a cup of tea, and noticed that people who I know still have jobs, that Corby still makes the sky orange, just less so than years ago, and that Saturday evening TV is still one big demented gesture of contempt to the recession and 'big issues' that London, and I, are sometimes obsessed with.

Our little old black and whte king charles spaniel that some callow veterinary plonker tried to euthanise a few years ago because they were feeding him dog food and he had no cushion in his cell--a form of treatment liberals of all political pretensions have somewhere in their mind for the 'economically efficient' slaves they seem to want to create--is snoring in front of the fire. His red haired pal is in the same state at my feet. I may join him soon.

The modern English can be awful, and this culture has been badly damaged and can be unfriendly, to say the least. I suspect that things were always a bit like that, either end of the wartime hiatus from Empire to deindustrialisation. It's sold out its education system and is in deep trouble. But it is hard, on a night like this, not to love England, for all its faults. I do like it here.

If you are still reading, reader--have a happy Sunday.

Comments

Mary said…
Yes, Martin, there will always be an England. London is not a city state. Northerners will always sound thick.

Maybe you should venture north. Believe me, the people have such simple welcoming warmth,you'll think you're in a different world. I know. Because I lived there.And went to school there.

My brothers went to school in Leicestershire. Ratcliffe. A good Catholic college. Cost lots of money. They still sound Northern to me.

I only ever met one girl from Corby. She sounded like a Cockney. She was put in my class but she couldn't handle the work. After a year she moved again as apparently she had done many times before. She cried buckets when she left.


All I'm really saying is that we
folks from the North should not be patronised. We're just as clever as you ..and we're loads more fun.
Martin Meenagh said…
Mary! What about ye?

London ought to be a city state. Everyone would be much happier that way, providing that Her Majesty's government ended up in England somewhere. I didn't write that Northerners were thick; I wrote that they seemed a different sort of people to me. I know good people and awful people from there. Who knows? Maybe being chucked off the land and forced to choose between trade unions or vicious monopsony employers who want some unemployed for two hundred years does things to a culture.
I think the corby accent is a sort of scots-london thing, if I were ever to try to compare it to anything, but there are a few rolled northamptonshire vowels in there- just a few.

Right. Thank thee for thy comment and eyup and tara and so forth our lass. Et cetera.
Martin Meenagh said…
Don't eat too many picallilli sandwiches.
Mary said…
Sorry Martin, I think I came over, just slightly, aggressive there. You dealt with it. Nicely. Thanks.

As I've let the cat out of the bag regarding my brother's rather privileged education, I should redress the balance by saying that we three girls attended state schools. I'm sure there was a contingency plan in place if we failed the eleven plus.

I still think there is a confusion between accent and class but that is an argument for another day..and besides I have never sounded particularly regional. I don't know if it was the elocution lessons at my junior convent or constant correction that did it...but I have probably the most neutral,unplaceable non- accent you could ever find.

That's just me.I don't take any particular pride in it. I know for sure though, that some people think it indicates intelligence. Having seen my writings, you know better than anybody what a crock that is. Cheers!
Martin Meenagh said…
I don't think that you were aggressive at all. Besides, where would I be without people to keep my rambling in check?

I don't really care where people went to school, though I'd like to see a reinvigorated catholic education system and New Zealand-style vouchers for schools, starting at the sixth form level.

Some accents, and they are mostly southern ones, grate a bit on the ear. That said, anything that qualifies a human being, and allows people to pigeonhole them, should be treated with suspiciion, I guess....
Martin Meenagh said…
supiciion is a form of spanish suspicion so intense it has three 'i's and nothing to do with me pressing the wrong button, by the way.
Mary said…
Martin, you're forever pressing the wrong button. Do keep it up.

The most grating accent is Brum. What a shocker. My son works with a person from that fair city. He tells me that the guy doesn't get the respect he deserves because of his 'joke accent'. He is not a working class boy but a rich man's son. A Birmingham lad, underestimated by Australians. And all because he doesn't sound quite right. It's not what you would expect. Is it?