I have been castigated for describing Jeremy Corbyn as ‘without obvious political passion’. It is true that I have watched him in full political flow speaking against the Iraq War, but on television during the election campaign, I found him oddly dry and unwilling to attack Johnson effectively as he so easily could, and should have: most especially in describing his own position on Brexit which seems to be a natural sympathy for opponents of Brexit and a visceral, traditional Bennite hostility to the neoliberalism of the EU, whilst at the same time wanting to defend the EU’s stance on wages and its internationalism. If this is indeed his position, why couldn’t he bring himself to say so, particularly when attacked by Johnson ? I didn’t mean to suggest that he doesn’t have deep-rooted political beliefs, because he obviously does, just not as effective as he needed to be in expressing them.
I have never previously been so apprehensive about the outcome of an election as I am this morning.
I realise that I was brought up to think that the British regard extremism with distaste, never likely to succumb to it, more inclined to compromise, seeing the virtue of the other side, and, above all, with some level of belief in the truth. But now, suddenly, in a short space of time, we have been faced by a government and a ruling party which have bombarded us with lies, not just small lies, but gigantic and incorrigible lies, incessantly, and completely shameless about them when they have been unmasked, as when it was suggested that the poor boy in the hospital corridor in Leeds was a fraud. Journalists, instead of probing the lies, revealing them, have played a prominent role in recycling them, even including the BBC.
What have we come to ? Well, under normal circumstances, there would be a well-constituted opposition. I would like to respect Jeremy Corbyn, but have found it hard to, because he is so curiously lacking in any obvious political passion, although there have been faint glimpses of a mordaunt sense of humour in his online appearances, nowhere evident elsewhere. Boris Johnson’s almost only real achievement in the election campaign has been to make Jeremy Corbyn seem relatively honest and, by contrast to the torrent of untruth, just acceptable.
I hate to think that a majority of the electorate may vote in Johnson.
Since it is now in the public domain that I have left Blain|Southern, although I have been generously allowed to stay in my office, I should perhaps say how much I have enjoyed my brief sojourn in the commercial art world, how grateful I was to Harry Blain for hiring me, and how much I have appreciated the friendship of my colleagues there, as I disappear into pastures new.
We went to an event tonight at Here East, an amazing set of new industrial spaces out in the Olympic Park near Hackney Wick, to see the way that new technology can be applied to the traditional techniques of Bell casting, in order to demonstrate that, if United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust are allowed to take the Whitechapel Bell Foundry over, they can introduce new, clean, environmentally friendly processes of casting, as well as invaluable systems of apprenticeship and training (there is apparently a big skills shortage in this area).
Current technology uses a ceramic shell, based on aerospace, which allows for more detail in the surface. In the past, it would have been done with loam through sand-casting. Prehistory meets hi-tech:-
Those of you who, like me, have never upgraded from the old round Reading Room will be reassured to know that the new British Library retains many of the same characteristics, except, of course, that there are many more readers now that you don’t have to demonstrate your academic credentials and the public areas, which are strangely even more packed than the reading rooms – I assume because they provide somewhere warm and dry for students to sit at their laptops. Most of the books I ordered have to come from Boston Spa, but not all. What I particularly noticed is a different level of concentration if everyone is reading: a collective concentration, uninterrupted by chitchat and the mobile phone. I need to re-learn it.
I went to renew my reader’s ticket at the British Library today and realised that I have never actually used the new British Library, but am a veteran of the old Round Reading Room where I sat, but not every day, at S6 or thereabouts, until I discovered that the atmosphere was quieter and more rarefied in the North Library, where one had access to rare books. Luckily, my name was still logged on the system, except my birth date was recorded as 12th. December 1900. I understood why the lady at the desk looked at me a touch sceptically. It’s quite nice to be back in the special quiet of a library reading room, undisturbed by anything except the sound of distant coughs.
There was a good, but perhaps too brief, discussion of the issues surrounding the development of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on Front Row tonight, beginning with the sounds of some of the most famous bells cast in Whitechapel, including St. Mary-le-Bow, St. Clement Dane, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.
Gillian Darley and Stephen Clarke made the case for keeping it as a working foundry instead of turning it into (another) luxury hotel, based on the model of the transformation and successful renovation of Middleport Pottery, which has been such a success: keeping it as a business, introducing new technology, keeping changes to the building to a minimum, opening up new markets in China, and encouraging school and public visits.
As Gillian said, it’s an issue for cultural heritage, not just built heritage, and Historic England can’t say it’s not their mandate because it’s what they did so successfully in Middleport.