Thursday, September 3, 2009

where there is darkness,

light. Under the stairs. Even with our new, sleek, pale mouse-grey living room, it still manages to look like brothel illumination. Not that (except via movies, etc) I'm particularly familiar with brothel interiors, but I always used to be fascinated by the red lights in red light districts that shone above doorways (in Cardigan Street in Oxford, before it was largely demolished; in Soho; visible from the overground Metro in north-east Paris, where Algerian immigrants stood outside in long shuffling lines; and in Amsterdam, only there the women were on show as well, sitting on gilt chairs in front of red velvet curtains - though of course the more popular women were represented by their absence, the empty chair left occupying the space. I don't have a clue whether EEC regulations have succeeded in doing away with such blatant display). "Always used to be" - I think that's best glossed as a teenage phenomenon on my part, and one that I can't quite figure out.

There's little ambiguity about a red light shining in a seedy area of town, unlike the origins and use of the prayer of St Francis - so-called - from which this blog heading comes from (no mention, alas, in it of St F's penchant for animals). If the saint was active in the C13th, the prayer can't be traced back before 1912 (in France). It's subsequently been adopted in all kinds of ways: by Mother Teresa (check: good); Desmond Tutu (check: good); Bill Clinton (goodish); Nancy Pelosi when becoming speaker (good); Alcoholics Anonymous (good and useful for many); Margaret Thatcher, on coming back from shaking hands with the Queen when becoming Prime Minister (bad, bad, bad). I'm not at all sure what to make of the fact that only one person in today's (alas, this time, non-photographic) undergraduate class owned up today to knowing who Thatcher was: what I do know is that reducing C20th British history into 20 minutes turned into a display, on my part, of such startling blandness that the Iron Lady herself would have had no sympathy with it.

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