October 1, 2009
It has been wonderful being back in England for a few days. I was able to celebrate my father’s birthday at one wonderful restaurant and see one of my oldest friends (about to be married and move to Australia) at another. The best meal was lunch in the company of other friends at Rousillon. These were all squeezed in around the annual meeting of the Compass Rose Society (see next entry) including dinner at Lambeth Palace. Each day I was able to run and walk around various places in Central and West London. The city is noticeably and more than I remember polyglot, visible in the mix of races and costumes, the shops, other businesses, billboards and the newspapers.
At the same time I re-read a book from long ago: John Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy which captures so much of the England I knew from thirty years ago with all the characteristic attitudes expressed by the characters of the novel. Last year my book club wondered whether Le Carre could be read as serious fiction and this book should leave no one in doubt about the correct answer.
All of which is to say that rather than finding myself nostalgic, I found myself energized in the same way I used to experience excitement and anticipation as I took a train into New York City. (I see that is the subject of Edward Rutherford’s latest book, --one that I will read before long.) It is not so much the institutional expressions of England that captured my imagination on this trip. The death throes of ‘new labor’ under Gordon Brown were on the front pages most days and the Church qua institution shows no discernible signs of life. I was more aware of a sense of possibility, a kind of renewal, even with all the problems we have with coming to terms with difference. We can make a start through recognizing, understanding and even appreciating what difference can mean and wresting some positive outcomes from the challenges of a multi cultural, multinational, multi faith world.