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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Monday, 2 April 2012


A few years ago, I read a report in a newspaper about the obliteration of the last old parts of Beijing. In fact, thinking about it, it was probably around the time of the Beijing Olympics - another monstrosity, just like the current fest for the self-obsessed, greedy and powerful. The article was illustrated with a few photos of what was the medieval city, and, like medieval cities and towns in Europe, it was a warren of small houses, lanes, surprising open spaces, and people using what space they had to create little oases of flowers, plants and calm. You can do a lot in a small space, and my little back garden looks fine at the moment, in its first Spring flush:

And it looks like that we, in England, are really going to have to get used to doing a lot in a small space. The new High Speed 2 rail link from London to Birmingham will run not far from where I live. It will cut through absolutely beautiful farm land and countryside. It will cost billions, certainly many more times than whatever plucked from the air figure we have been given by the government (both this one and the last one - i.e. from all three main parties in England). There appeared to be no real logical case for it, it seemed to be simply yet another prestige project of the sort so loved by politicians. But now it seems as if there was some sort of logic, as news emerges that there are plans to build a new city that will stretch from Coventry to Wolverhampton - destroying a huge slice of the East Midlands countryside. Why ? Well, England (and it is almost entirely England) continues to see its population grow by over 250,000 people a year from immigration alone. At this rate the UK population will be over 70 million by 2027, and over 2 million houses will have to be built in England. The HS2 now looks like part of this project, to make the Midlands merely a suburb of that globalised city, London. Similarly, there is talk of 'rebranding' Birmingham International airport as 'London Birmingham'. Through all this developing story there are constant themes: a lack of honesty about real intentions, a lack of transparancy in decision-making, a total disregard as to the wishes of the mass of the population (on the part of parties which have never, since 1945, managed to win a majority of votes, never mind of the electorate), and a contempt for England and the English. Look at those figures again - we are going to have to get used to our little private spaces. Unless, that is, we have big houses in London, big houses in Witney, nice weekend bolt-holes in the de-Gaelicised Highlands, and fancy places on mountainsides in Switzerland.

Normal, toy soldier, transmission will be resumed soon.

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