Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Up at university during the day, chiefly reading a PhD dissertation and setting up teaching material for next term. At lunch met young Vietnamese poet, Phuoc-Tan Diep, who came to England at the age of three with his family. He is now a doctor at the hospital. He spoke very warmly of the family's reception in England, which was pretty well my experience too. This can be uncomfortable reading for those who prefer to present the country as an unfriendly, xenophobic, exploitative host, and no doubt, at different times, with different people, it can be. But when it is not so - and I think we could summon up a fair crowd of witnesses here - it is worth saying as much.
Apropos of which I have been invited by Radio 4 to write a piece about our own family's flight from Hungary and arrival in England. It'll have to be written fairly fast in the middle of a great deal else. The poems in An English Apocalypse, even those that remark on the grotesque or declining aspects of England are, in a way, love poems. Realistic love poems, if you like, not idealisations or whitewashes. I am as capable as the next immigrant of seeing blemishes, but I can't forget that the face that was turned towards us was a welcoming, efficient, generally kindly face. Life here can be stupid, brutal, dull and craven - as it can in all places - but it has never been barbaric, oppressive, deeply corrupt, or hopeless.
And England beat Croatia 4-1 tonight, in Croatia. I read some of the pre-match views and John Terry's confession that the England team had no confidence. The response of press and public? Kick them in the teeth again. Croatia was 3-1 down and their supporters were bouncing up and down, actually supporting their team. Unlike England supporters - and that is even when England aren't losing. As I say: stupid, brutal, dull, craven it can be, and oddly gutless. But it doesn't last. And in an odd way I almost prefer it to a patriotic orgy.
Better still is irony. As I once heard a Spurs supporter answering his son on the way into White Hart Lane. It had been a bad season so far. Boy (looking at programme) asks: Is this the team we put out last week, dad? Dad; Yes, son, you don't want to change a losing combination. Then they go in and cheer the team on.
I don't have Setanta but I watched the goals here. Nice things.
And Linda is on the Booker short list! A very very good day.