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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Henderson's relish

My forays into twitter land can be somewhat erratic, hit one day and skip the next two or three. Tonight, after the day job had finished and I found myself at my desk - the one that looks over the park - I was flicking through the trends and stumbled on #Londonisopen. First reaction, I didn't know it had been shut, but then it is Monday and I suppose some of the businesses might close over the weekend, so I dug a little further and saw it was a post-Brexit trend (Are we already post Brexit, or did I miss something, I thought we'd only had the vote that was going to start the process?)

Turns out that it's an idea from the Mayor of London telling the world that London is still open for business. I don't want to spoil anybody's fun, but I think the rest of the world knows. It's sort of how things work. The morning after the vote nothing had changed, we are still, for the time being, part of the European Union and will remain so until someone pulls their finger out and starts the ball rolling.

Nothing has changed or maybe something has; the perspective. Personally I sense a shift over the past three weeks, sifting through the news feeds covering the reaction to the vote and the prospect of dealing directly with the UK as a trading partner I have become more aware of the wider world. The European blinkers have been peeled back.

The talk is Europe, Europe, but it's really the European Union. Europe is a hell of lot bigger than the European Union (it includes a considerable part of Russia, the  European bit of Russia is almost the size of the European Union- the border lies along the Ural mountains on the other side of Moscow and a little bit of Azerbaijan, a piece of Georgia, the Ukraine, Belarus. a section of Kazakhstan, and smaller section of Turkey.) There is almost as much of Europe outside the EU as there is in it.)

Is it the big fish little pond situation, close down the boundaries of the pool and the little fish look bigger, transfer them to the ocean and the perspective changes relative to the circumstance. Have we been so inward looking and Euro-centric we have forgotten the bigger perspective. Convinced ourselves that being one twenty-eighth part of something was better than standing on our own two feet. A couple of days ago, Love Actually trended on Twitter and one tweet suggested a petition for Hugh Grant as PM - for his response to the President's statement.

It is a good response, but should we be really looking towards a romantic comedy for our political inspiration, to find the balls to stand up for ourselves?

#Londonisopen, I'm not knocking the idea, by all means tell the world that London is still a brilliant vibrant capital, a melting pot of people and ideas.

In the post referendum moment where we are now there is quixotic feeling, of tilting at imaginary windmills, and a better slogan may have been provided by Mrs Laura Henderson, not the spouse of the Yorkshire Relish manufacturer but the proprietress of London's Windmill Theatre who's doors remained open throughout the Second World War, except for the fourteen days compulsory closure at the outbreak of war in September 1939; We Never Closed!

The Windmill added something to the image of London, a little bit of spice, a piquant tang, but whatever happened the show goes on. something to relish on an evening in town.

The Windmill eventually closed its doors in 1964, succumbing to the draw of the private members clubs in Soho.

#Londonisopen; so is the rest of the country,

Don't fool yourself that the leave vote was quixotic, It's not going to be an easy road ahead.

Patch the pieces together, where the traditional industries once drove the economy and noisy factories clattered to the sound of machinery now bear the silent hush of the Art Gallery. the fashionable pied-a-terre or bronze statues stand where metal was once poured, and plot the vote to leave on your map.

James Ashton's column in the Evening Standard today argues that London should not be pulled down to close the North-South gap. He is right, no argument with that. Kicking aside the restrictive traces of the European project was not about bringing London down to where the other regions are. that's a bad idea. Pulling everyone down to the same level helps no-one, we all want to enjoy the sunlit uplands of a strong economy. Who doesn't? Josh Burge posted a tweet to his blog reminding people why he thinks London is a great place, irrespective of the result of the vote.

It's grim up North! A stereotype attributed to J.B. Priestley in his 1934 book, English Journey and his depiction of the Northern landscape was widely publicised but not well received in the North. Priestley himself was a native of West Yorkshire.

He travelled across a landscape of heavy industry and saw a North-South gap. I wonder what he would make of it now.

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