Saturday, 14 August 2010

That long

Today, the day I moved into this house is precisely as long ago - sixteen years minus twelve days - as Jim Callaghan's announcement that there would be no October 1978 election was on the day of our one-way journey from Waterloo.

I did not then know the full implications of what had happened at that time, but I already sensed a strange mirage shortly before I was born, a mysterious and unknowable lost universe of the recent past even without real knowledge of the deeper context. I knew it from daytime BBC2 reruns, bleak late nights of Radio 2 - the products of the very same quieter, unmarketised BBC which died forever the summer we moved, precisely halfway between then and now. "Forever Autumn" - a song I would hear in public in the summer of 2007, just as that very same scenario was being repeated in my own time, and would be torn apart by more than ever - to me brought on uncontrollable versions of a permanently changed landscape, hidden years I could not yet begin to understand. In the gaping rooms of the empty house we arrived in, they almost single-handedly kept me going, because I knew, albeit only at some vague, unconscious level, the changes had been further consolidated, taken to another, more total level, that very summer - Blair had come, Birt had successfully taken the precise opposite of the "Himalayan Option", Potter and Jarman had gone, Tarantino had beaten Kieslowski at Cannes. On several important levels, all remaining resistance within the official political and media structures of Britain to market fundamentalism had been wiped out in a matter of months, as had official belief in a European cultural consensus which is still wrongly considered a force in the present day and attacked as "imperialist" by some of the anti-Mail single-issue blogs (whose writers, admirable as their criticism of those odious newspapers is, are still often too culturally supportive of the real modern-day imperialists). I knew something of huge importance had happened, but I couldn't work out what it was yet - all I could do was retreat into another private world that seemed immensely remote, almost like my own private August 1914, which was far more similar to the moment I was living through than I could possibly have understood at the time.

Perhaps for those born shortly after 1994 the moment before they entered the world is already developing a similar exoticism which they cannot yet understand. Perhaps for those being born now, 2010 will eventually take on a similar mythic potency as the moment the changes begun at the end of the 1970s, and accelerated in several crucial fields in the mid-1990s, began their final phase, the moment the complete, final obliteration of any trace of the British public sphere (and perhaps of Britain itself, as a state) began.

We cannot yet know. But today's Pick of the Pops - on the very same Radio 2 which, in the summer of 1994, still played the Dam Busters March in the middle of a weekday - by sheer coincidence expressed and spoke of everything. Winton opining that he thought Foreigner's "Cold As Ice", an ugly, jarring opener, had been a bigger hit (of course: he has been brainwashed), Cerrone's putative quasi-master-race that nonetheless seems wholly sympathetic (and an unconsciously well-timed, on the 43rd anniversary of the moment when Wilson unwittingly begat boomer Thatcherism, mention of Kenny Everett), Voyage's unequivocal EUtopia (the full 15 minutes may be pop's pinnacle, full stop), Renaissance at the very height of the Long Mynd (and how much we should all wish "Follow You Follow Me" had been another "Northern Lights", a pop moment in isolation by a prog band none of whom ever charted again), "If The Kids Are United" (a deeply, profoundly counter-revolutionary song, which irreconcilably called for social unity yet wilfully threw off the legacy of 1945: there is no real difference between its particular refusal of Butskellism and the Thatcherite version, or between the social conservatism of the Sham Army belief that, say, Magazine weren't for "people like us" and the age-old lumpen proletariat that reading and learning weren't), "Dancing in the City" (whose best moment, I think now, is Kit Hain's slowed, ominous final "tonight", which wholly undermines the celebration - which, throughout the song, might as easily have turned into a wake - and strongly hints at storms coming), "Forever Autumn" more final than ever, "Substitute" wholly untainted by apartheid or ABBA copyism.

And, of course, Grease and "Three Times a Lady" to remind us of who and what actually won.

It's Sunday now. I haven't just lived here that long, but longer. Somehow, Cameron's final phase of destruction seems that much more omnipresent than it did on Friday. My own personal Rubicon has been crossed. This is what Peter Hammill meant the year I was born when he wrote "Fogwalking".

Auberon Waugh wrote in the Spectator of 2nd September 1978 that capitalism was dead in Britain.

That's why "From East to West" is greater than anything with Tony Blair's electric guitars on it. That's why I'm sitting here now. That's why white pop, now, is unsalvageable. But it's also why time will be my ultimate fascination until my own is over, and why I still want to believe that there is, somewhere, a parallel universe akin to the one the freed children dance into in the final scenes of Lost Hearts and Moondial, where Voyage are more revered than Dylan, more famous than GaGa.

Don't mind me. I'll leave the house again, some time soon. But this is my justification. This is the reason. This is why I didn't die. I'll keep going, through whatever is to come.

Sea Songs makes a brief transition into Mailwatch

In one breath, Peter Hitchens moans that Britain is now "a subject province of a continental empire".

In the next, he comments that while travelling recently in a European country, he was unable to change British currency into local money because it was "an exotic currency".

I rather suspect he is referring to Turkey here, but even by his / the Mail titles' standards, this is an astonishing level of self-contradiction. If Britain is ever again to have a proper, globally recognised currency, it has two choices. Sadly, I suspect Hitchens would rather see us dollarise. And then go on, in the same breath, about being forced to listen to pop music. Never has the stench of hypocrisy been uglier.

The sad thing is that the case for Europe can arguably be made more convincingly by cultural conservatives than by the likes of Polly "Capital Gold" Toynbee, just as the case for US statehood can be made more convincingly by pop-culture-fundamentalist "leftists" than by an unabashed fogey such as Hitchens Minor (not that he does make such a case, but he would surely see it as a lesser evil, in the exceedingly unlikely event that he ever accepts that the Britain he dreams of is geopolitically unworkable). A greater shame than ever that Auberon Waugh isn't around to make the European case, because he had the ear of people who believe, like Hitchens Minor, that J.S. Bach represents the peak of all musical achievement for all time, people who are not tied to the "rebellion" of 43 years ago as so much of the "left" still is. As it is, most "conservatives" and most "leftists" are both wedded to people who are not their natural allies (the latter, of course, can sometimes make excuses for both the worst excesses of American big business and the worst excesses of Islam: the fact that the Mail dislikes both - hypocritically in the latter case: the most natural non-Muslim sympathisers with the more extreme Islamic tendencies are social conservatives - does not mean the left should defend either). If and when either pathetic tribe returns, blinking, towards the light, I hope they will consult the likes of me, rather than either tribe's house journals, for advice on where to turn next. I may not do very well, but I have no doubt I could do better than any newspaper - of which, in terms of power to distort and lie and poison, there remain none deadlier than the Mail.