London Journal: Xenophobia Cramps London Style

Monday, January 13

Rog and I walked northeast toward South Kensington tube station, partly to get out of the way of the cleaner who came today. Our shopping list was short: a carry bag, postcards and stamps, a pen for me, coffee, and milk. We soon divided into two search parties, he inspired by the sight of a hardware store (used to be called “ironmongers”) to get dishwasher soap and a scrub brush. I went into a news agent to get postcards, pen and stamps, and perhaps a bag. It began to rain. I was done first, of course, and went back to collect him and push him toward a tea shop.

Gledhow Gardens

Gledhow Gardens

We settled on a restaurant bar that sold hot chocolate. I could smell fish cooking. The prix fixe lunch was billed at £16.85. ($27). We sipped our drinks and each wrote a paragraph on a card to 9-year-old Maya, the front of which showed a photo of Big Ben in the gloom with a red double-decker bus on the street below. He wrote about the rain. I commented that babies rode in their push chairs behind plastic windshields. We dropped the card in a box with a 5:30 pickup and headed back down the Old Brompton Rd., passing our old flat at Gledhow Gardens and the school across the street that now bears a sign identifying the site of the former home of Beatrix Potter.


 Again I noticed that almost every child is riding a scooter and decided that it must be the way to get them excited about accompanying their adults.

 This rain does not bode well for southern England, already on flood alert. At the train station Saturday when I was waiting in the coffee shop, I couldn’t help but overhear two middle-aged men talking about rescue work. The one who had been on the scene (probably a social worker) described the predicament where woman and children were supposed to be taken onto rafts before the others, but where they were elbowed off by men from foreign countries. Presumably not America.

There is a xenophobia here that I have previously experienced mainly in outdated novels. Our landlady referred to “a horrendous immigration problem.” I have been reading about what it presents today,  gently expressed in the Inspector Hartley mysteries by Rev. John Waddington-Feather (set in Yorkshire). 


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