Wednesday, 19 November 2008
The University of Warwick on a dark night
The Warwick campus is the most magnificent I have seen, always excepting Oxford and Cambridge and Durham and Edinburgh, which are not in fact campuses. I was trying to think what it is like and it seems to me like an unlikely and somewhat opulent cross between a gated community in, say, Arizona, a suburb of Milton Keynes and - in patches - Las Vegas. The hotel I am staying in has all mod cons including this computer. If I were a student I'd probably decide to work and retire here. I would turn myself into Terry Pratchett of some ten years ago, and sport a beard and a big hat. Yes, Discworld. Maybe that is it.
And it has extraordinary teachers and writers. I will not even begin to list them because, after all, I work at UEA where there are writers of equal stature and I wouldn't want to start a fight.
The cabbie on the way in was, to some extent, Kartoon Kabbie, in that he griped about foreigners and immigrants. He had spent over twenty years working for Peugeot then they shut it down. No wonder he was glum. The work went to Eastern Europe. Cheap labour. Where's the fighting spirit? he asked. Whether it was capital he wanted to fight or the immigrant was not entirely clear. Both probably. And the football team down the tube too. Do you know how much they earn? £6,000 quid a week. Bet you don't earn that. I confessed I didn't.
The reading. I think it went fine to a big audience. I was aware of a certain emotional overflow, the effects of tiredness. I caught myself a breath short in the last poem, one about Chet Atkins. Steady on, I urged myself. You'll frighten the horses. You're already frightening yourself. The students bought books. What student anywhere buys books? With what money? Non studenti, sed angeli.
I'll reflect on this another time. Maybe. Meanwhile bless David Morley who brought me here and introduced me. And the Chinese Hungarian-speaking mathematics student, a delightful girl who wants to be a fashion designer. And the English daughter of, of all people, Tamas Gaspar Miklos. Two Hungarian voices, The disorientations of Warwick. Of Las Vegas. Of Discworld.