"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Laugh? I Nearly Cried.

Geneva, where I have spent the past week (don't ask) is a peaceful sort of place, I thought, until I got a whiff of teargas earlier. The city is so neat and tidy and full of solid bourgeois moneyed Calvinist respectability that even the yobs and hoodies look positively unthreatening but today there seem to have been at least three manifestations: one was a string of tractors chugging through the city centre (farmers doing what they do so well, asking for more); people protesting against people protesting against mosque-building ("a third Crusade?" asked one poster on a neat set of boards provided by the municipality – we don't do flyposting in this town); and a march against the arms trade. I think it was the latter that brought out the heavy police in crash helmets and visors and tear-gas guns at tea time. I was waiting for a bus outside the central station when they started firing tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, without bothering to warn the public. Imagine British riot police (not exactly covered in glory) exploding tear-gas canisters on the concourse at Paddington without bothering to tell anyone. It's horrible stuff, stinging one's cheeks, making one's eyes red, naturally, and bringing on the swine-flu-style coughs. And my crime was waiting to catch a flipping bus to Ferney-Voltaire where the great man of the Enlightenment stands on at least two pedestals in the town. Moi, I'm flying back tomorrow!


Andrew said...

I suppose it being the land of Calvin, the tear-gas spraying authorities could argue that who are you to complain. Innocent? Only the minutely few are innocent, the rest damned definitively & deserving of whatever comes thir way, whether now or hereafter. The authorities, as that bit higher up the herarchical ladder & closer to the direct will of Calvin's demonic deity, are offering you a dose of your greater future, on credit.

On the other hand in the west we tend to imagine we dwell in democracies where government represents our will. The truth tends to be revealed in more stressed situations, where the irritated beast gets to offer the humble citizenry an unpleasant hint as to the nature of itself, its claws, & where one stands in relation to itself and its claws.

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