Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hidden London

I received this book for my birthday on Friday and I can't say enough about it. How did I ever manage without it before?

For instance, little did I know that back in the eighteenth century two strike leaders were hanged outside the corner where my local tube station and a pub, the Salmon and Ball, meet. Or that the place was used as a fascist meeting spot during the 1930s. Or that a friend of mine lives a stone's throw away from where Jack 'The Hat' McVitie was murdered by the Kray twins.

The only danger is that I'm already proving a bore to friends and family, having spent the entire weekend starting conversations with "Did you know..." At this rate I won't have anyone left to give me the revised edition for my birthday next year.

Snakes and ladders

So got the second lot of essays in to the Institute yesterday. Hooray!

Now got to sit down and start on a presentation (on political parties and elections in Latin America) and the PhD statement. Boo.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Missed connections

Listening to the Today interview with NATO’s secretary general this morning I realised that it was a Dutchman and not George Robertson any more.

It reminded me of my one and only moment with Robertson, who before joining NATO had been Britain’s defence minister.

It was about two years ago and I had just been watching my MP’s performance at oral questions on the Parliamentary channel. He had come in to ask a question about agricultural subsidies, I think.

Moments later I got a phone call. Robertson’s burr reverberated through the earpiece as he enthusiastically told me to congratulate my boss on an excellent speech. He had never heard anything like it before.

Oh, OK, thanks, I answered, a little bemused. And what was he talking about? I asked. Silence followed at the other end. Eventually he responded. Who was he talking to?

You’ve come through to the Lib Dem research centre, I said, and you’re talking to the agriculture researcher. Are you referring to the debate on farm reform which we’ve just been speaking on?

Sorry, wrong number was the reply, followed by a dead line.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Not holding my breath

Yesterday I posted my application for the Anglo-Brazilian Society award. The Society gives one annual scholarship a year to undertake research in Brazil. Part of the application consists of a 3000-word essay on some aspect of Brazilian culture, history, etc.

Imagine my disappointment when I completed what was proving to be a real millstone around my neck (initially I had loads of ideas but little way of putting them together in a clear logical way), only to discover I was 1000 words under. One of the reasons was the need to strip away some material which didn’t seem to bear any direct relevance to the rest of the essay.

Still, I finished it and will now wait to see what happens. I’m not holding out or expecting too much – I’m sure there are plenty of doctoral students who have written far better pieces than mine.

As for my piece, it was on the challenges facing Brazilians in London – not exactly the subject I propose to study this summer – but one I’ve been interested in for awhile. Perhaps I might put up some excerpts later, when I get the refusal slip.
Feeling my age

I thought it was because my birthday on Friday that I felt I’m getting old. But it’s worse than that. And no, it wasn’t because I saw a policeman and realised he looked younger than me (although that has happened as well recently). No, it was this morning I was listening to the radio, minding my own business when I realised exactly why I’m feeling my age.

It was the last story on the Today programme: three commentators including one of the MPs I used to work for, Norman Baker, and the IPPR’s Simon Retallack. They were talking about climate change.

Simon was one of the students in my International Relations class at LSE during my first year. Even then he was an ecological militant. I can’t remember a political conversation with him which didn’t turn back to environmental issues one way or the other. And frustratingly, he was always so self-assuredly right in his views – a regular politician.

This morning wasn’t the first time he’s popped up in my radar. The same happened a few weeks ago on Newsnight. And if having a visual or audible reminder that your generation is steadily getting older (and supposedly more respectable), there’s also another survivor from that same shared class in October 1995: James Crabtree, who seems to appear everywhere these days, from TV to print.

Was it something in the water or in Geoffrey Stern’s teaching? Maybe it was because we all ended up on the student paper. I don’t really know, other than to say that there’s something unsettling about seeing your peers in the media; it makes me feel I’m getting older.

You may well ask how old I’m going to be on Friday. Only 29, for goodness sake! Were I at least another five or ten years older it would be OK – there just seems something odd about seeing people my age burbling away, no matter how knowledgeable they might be.