THROUGH THE STREETS OF LONDON


So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand,
And lead you through the streets of London,
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.

Ralph McTell, Streets of London

Second Born had some trouble placing apostrophes in the story he was writing.
“Why don’t you ask dad for help?” I suggested, gesturing at the man on the sofa whose face was hidden by an open MacBook.
He looked at the man with the computer head then back to me.
“Nah. He only knows about financial crises.”
World leaders may be queuing to debate his views but we know how to keep His Grey Eminence grounded.

And with the G20 leaders meeting this week, He Who Keeps BA In Business, has been a busy boy. So he has begged us to hang out on this other small rock so we can at least snatch the odd weekend en famille. I had steadfastly refused to visit whilst there was the possibility of sub-zero temperatures but the daffodils are now out and there was the need to check if the London house was still standing. The Husband is thrilled – even if he is hardly here. Janine asked where he was last week and I honestly did not know. First Born thought it was somewhere beginning with “B”. I suggested Berlin but was a day late. The Husband had indeed been to Berlin but had already moved on to Bratislava. I think next week’s letter is “P” since he leaves tomorrow for Paris, or it might be Prague, or maybe the Punjab. “P” will also be my special letter of the week. The change to British Summer Time should be properly celebrated with a jug of Pimms down my local pub.

While he tries to set the world on the right path to financial regulation the kids and I have been slowly adjusting to changes in London. It has been six months since we last embraced the motherland and she has not been having an easy time. Our local high street, in a neighbourhood of City types, is weeping. There are several shops with “for sale/rent” signs. The posh deli has disappeared. Restaurants and hairdressers are empty. The dry cleaners say business is down forty percent since my last visit. A stroll through our common means bumping into newly redundant dads, all putting a brave face on the misery of wondering where, and when, they will get another job. The very air seems suffused with anger, frustration and depression. Add to the mix these murky grey skies, and nasty, cold rain, and you will find me hiding under my duvet.

I have peaked out of the duvet a couple times and found even more surprises. Wandsworth, Chelsea and Islington might be in recession but the international market of Bond Street is not. My venture into Louis Vuitton to have a repair done was like entering a rugby scrum. In the thick of it were Singaporeans, Hong Kong Chinese and a smattering of Russians buying leather arm candy as if it were freshly baked salt bread from that nice bakery near Charles Rowe Bridge in St. George. And when a pal took me to Nobu, a pricey Japanese restaurant, the place was packed. On a Monday night. Peter, a friend in Nova Scotia, is probably right in suggesting that there is “less Bollinger being aerosoled around the west end”. But Peter some global citizens are still passing the vintage port.

And London of course is where the G20 will gather. Although their meeting is at the ExCel Centre in the eastern end of the City, it is the Bank of England that will be in focus. Expect Threadneedle Street to be the Mecca for an unholy alliance of protesters. Everyone wants justice. But the ideas of justice, and for whom, vary significantly. A few days ago we witnessed a pre-G20, “Put People First”, march. The crowd was urged not to accept the old politics, or the old financial institutions, but to put people first. Sounds fantastic. But how do the various calls to regulate this, and ban that, translate into workers’ rights or improve the lot of us Third World citizens in whose name so many march? There is a suspicion that those who enjoyed the City of London riots in 1999 are looking for a special, tenth anniversary punch-up, with a “Burn The Banker” theme. Do they know the Bank of England only has badly paid, keen geeks, who are hardly worthy opponents? For a real fight they should be heading to “Hedge Fund Alley” aka Curzon Street.

And my top tip for all wannabe anarchists: the rich guys wear polo shirts and Chinos. The suits are shop assistants.

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