Wednesday, January 27, 2016

London again

Last fall I returned to London (somewhere in England - sic) for two weeks. This was the city where I had settled, semipermanently it seemed at the time, just over fifty years ago. How has it changed? 

My most important finding is that London has not changed - at least in its core. Like the other world cities, it is eternal. To be sure, when I settled in the British capital, there were still bombed-out sites from the blitz - now filled in, not always felicitously, but even the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, and the London Eye don't seem to make that much difference. 

What then has changed? Well, in those days we reckoned in pounds, shillings, and pence. There was even a kind of phantom currency called the guinea, which one used in bargaining to boost one's earnings just a little. Still, there was something monumentally stable about British currency: in banks one could see clerks actually weighing clumps of the silver coins in bulk, so accurate was their alloy. Trips on the Underground were calculated in shillings and pence only, varying minutely according to distance. No Oyster then! One still read in the great circular room at the British Museum, now sadly mutilated. At tea time we repaired to Lyons and the ABC, basically bun shops. You could get milk from machines. The price of basic commodities was kept low; and liquor highly taxed. 

So there has been change, a least a bit. But stability? - yes, Gov!


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