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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006


[Jotted down from P.N. Firbank's review of Denton Welch: Writer and Artist by James Methuen-Campbell in the London Review of Books, 17 October 2002; here Firbank is describing Welch's recuperation from the 1936 accident that fractured his spine, battered his face and made him an invalid]:

"Whole days would pass for deliberately organised daydreams, in which he would minutely explore an imaginary 18th Century house."

[Notes made about the journey home, on Ryanair to Stansted, after seeing a Dylan concert in Stockholm, Sweden in April 2002]:

"The woman alongside me spent much of the flight cleaning the window with a tissue, and the woman behind me spent all of it blowing her nose long and loudly into hers.

As we came in to land, England looked as sunny, sumptuous and sensuous as Tuscany. Then, as ever, you encounter the chilly, badly organised, contemptuous shambles that is the airport railway station - one lift, and that the world's slowest, with the label that ought to read 'Trains' rubbed away and the light around the button to summon it so faint that you cannot trust that it's working; then down to the dark, concrete punishment-block of the platforms. Those visible to left and right are, naturally, Platforms 1 and 3. Platform 2 is nowhere in sight, and the sign pointing you off into the distance to reach it is as small as it could possibly be. The screens telling you which train will be on which platform are either malfunctioning or else programmed so that the moment you look at them their information slides off to one side, leaving a sustained blankness, and is then restored all too briefly before disappearing again, and so on. This is intended, I suppose, to imply a constant updating, to impress upon travellers straining their necks to catch it that the data is of special veracity. In reality it could scarcely be less readable. Then, when you reach Platform 2, the train sitting there has as its stated destination 'Stansted Airport', reinducing every possible uncertainty. Inside, the digital print-out strip reads 'This train is for Stansted Airport'. Only two minutes before departure does it wake up and tell you what it's meant to. Meanwhile, of course, the carriage itself is full of empty lager cans and sticky table-tops and litter.

Why are we so bad at it all? They organise things so much better more or less anywhere, and certainly in Sweden."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in Britain is incredibly frustrating, particularly when you come back from other European countries. Hopefully though, this inability to organise anything whatsover will mean the whole compulsory 'ID cards / National Identity Register' doesn't happen.

1:22 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Good point, Andy. I do so hope you're right. If it happens at all, it will, as you say, happen badly. Whether that'll be so badly that we can get away without having to pay for one at all is more doubtful.

4:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real question is not why we are so bad at organizing things in Britain. It's because we are prepared to put up with bad organization. So the real question is why do we put up with it?

It's the same with Identity Cards - they'll happen only if we let them. If not, well "What would happen if they had a war and no-one came?". Sometimes we have to take responsibility for what happens to us instead of blaming the anonymous "them" (or even "us").

11:46 pm  
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5:54 pm  

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