Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Return of the Native

I left apartheid South Africa in 1982 as the last of its crusading newspapers crumbled around me, either beaten by censorship, run down by their accommodating owners, as in the case of the late great Rand Daily Mail, or banned outright in one case (over coverage of the Biko affair), neatly severing me from a job. I came back to the land of my birth with a sense of sadness for a life unfinished, and got down to work. In the 13 years I lived in London I knew only Tory rule. Thatcher was a history woman, overseeing the great transition to a consumer society which had no communities, just families, as she explained. I put my cross next to Labour without any particular love of socialism; they were just decent people, they had a chance of power, and that would do.

When Mandela was freed another chapter of my history opened too. By the end of 1995 I had made the great trek back, this time to ruminate in my beloved Cape and eke out a living in a media backwater. How ironic that the next great British event was the coming to power of a Labour government at last.

Now, this May, I am returning for the first time in 10 years, and it is going to be fascinating to see just what hath Labour rule wrought in my absence. Although two and a half weeks isn't a lot of time to cover all the bases, and I probably won't be spending much time cursing the Northern Line ...

It's a curious feeling: I was born in north London and left it as a child, then lived in Finchley for all those 13 years of exile; and this time I am a visitor, though hardly a tourist. I do hope I don't really fancy the old place now. I am not sure I could handle another uprooting and replanting. George Steiner believes that the writer is always in exile, and now I believe he is right. I often feel that I am occupying my own Lost island. Except I have all my bloody luggage to tote around.

London doesn't belong to me, exactly, but I belong to it, in a tenuous kind of way. This post is becoming extremely tenuous too, so I'll wrap it up. Pretty soon the Oyster will be my world ...

8 Comments:

Blogger Pashmina said...

Astonishingly - and I hesitate to type these words lest they tempt fate to trigger a total breakdown of the London Underground system - the Northern Line is much improved these days. Except when they shut bits of it for weeks on end because of derailments and the like. You will notice generally there are lots of new trains, and the Jubilee line goes further than it did.

I trust you will be sharing your thoughts on Mayor Ken's London here in due course?

10:54 AM  
Blogger Spinsterella said...

It's free to get into all the Big Museums these days.

4:00 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

As it turns out, Pash, I may be using the Northern Line a bit after I leave the hotel in week 2 and may doss down at my pal Adrian's pad in Whetstone while we do some serious jaunts in search of jazz. First thought about Ken's London: I cannot get their bloody site to load so I can buy an Oyster card. I could have done with the Jubilee Line extension to Canary Wharf, but it wasn't completed till after I left.

Spin, thanks, I certainly am going to get my fix from the museums and galleries. New Tate I'm looking forward to.

I wouldn't mind meeting a few of my bloggy pals while I'm in the neighbourhood.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Wyndham said...

Correction: the Northern Line has been a nightmare over the last few weeks. At least, at peak-time. When I use it. *tuts*

10:08 PM  
Blogger patroclus said...

>>I wouldn't mind meeting a few of my bloggy pals while I'm in the neighbourhood.<<

Hurrah! I'm glad someone brought that up at last!

I think some sort of dinner with your London-dwelling blogfriends is definitely in order.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Interpreter Pavlov said...

Just discovered this blog and like it very much. Thank you. A few entirely superficial but well-meant observations:

1. Much looking forward to your London insights

2. Good poetry can't die, but could it occasionally take a leap from the verbal into the visual and actual?

3. The waterfront fish and chips at Fish Hoek are pretty good too, or were when I was there in '95

4:17 PM  
Blogger Pashmina said...

Oooh dinner. There's an idea. Dave, you're in line for the grown-up treatment. I'm always up for a blogmeet, me.

(Wyndham: sorry about the Northern Line thing. Am particularly disenheartened by your comments, as a move to Kentish Town is possibly back on the cards)

4:23 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

Jeez, I just found out my courteous reply to all these comments has not been added by Blogger, so:

Welcome Pavlov, only please don't ring your little bell as it makes me salivate. Thanks for the kind remarks. No Fish Hoek fish 'n chips shop comes close to The Salty Sea Dog, that's a fact.

Patro and Pash, dinner sounds great. I'll e-mail you my details nearer the time and get a contact number from you.

uyhghrpy: therapy for self-loathing.

3:45 PM  

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