December 11th 2009

This has been a very busy term and its end is particularly frenetic. Steve Connor, director of the London Consortium, rings me to tell me that his son has been attacked in the street and will I deputise for him at the end of term party. I was going to the party anyway so that is no trouble. By a coincidence my youngest son Finn who is also at Manchester University was also attacked in a London street earlier this year. Every year I warn my American students, particularly the boys, how violent a city London is. Sometimes I think I’m being melodramatic, today it seems I’m just being realistic.
I’ve invited Doreen Mende, who Flavia and I met in Berlin, to the party. Doreen is a curator and is keen to work on the Colonial Film project. Since September 2007 I have been directing, with Lee Grieveson, a project to catalogue all the 7,000 films representing British colonies held in the archives of the British Film Institute. The work has been fascinating but the whole project, intended to occupy a small part of my time has completely overwhelmed me. Since September 2008 I have scarcely worked on anything else. Doreen is full of the contemporary discourse of the art world, which by one of those ironies of history is the last place where the discourse of politicized theory of the Parisian sixties still lives. Admittedly it is now a discourse blissfully unaware of its own history and of the fact that the political conditions that it assumed have gone with the wind. I meet Doreen outside the Birkbeck English department in Russell Square and we take a taxi to the Tate Modern. I tease Doreen about how all her generation think that surveillance was invented by Jeremy Bentham and his Panopticon. You only have to read Genesis with Adam and Eve hiding in the garden to realize that the superego has been spying on us since the dawn of time. But of course that was what Foucault wanted above all to deny, to construct a modern hell, time rather than species bound. Doreen looks at me as though I am temporarily deranged. She comes from Thuringia, for many the heart of Germany, but for me her features are pure Pole . Indeed she reminds me very strongly of the Polish beauties who haunted my teenage years at my school in Ealing. As these memories of childhood flash up, I realize that we are passing Fetter Lane and on impulse I ask the cabbie to cut down to Fleet Street. Throughout my childhood, this was the street that never slept; the hum of the Mirror presses was the soothing accompaniment to my sleep, mechanical surf crashing with the most regular of rhythms. I try to explain how exciting it had been to me as a boy but as they say, you had to have been there to understand. Funnily enough the cabbie had, he had been ‘on the print’ until 1970 and so we progress to the Tate Modern – two old men reminiscing.
The party is on the seventh floor of the Tate with what is certainly the best view in London looking both up and down the river and across at St Paul’s. . St Paul’s geographically defined my childhood: to the east of Fetter Lane and to the south of Cripplegate to which we moved when I was sixteen. The party is very enjoyable, Doreen mixes very easily with the students and suddenly I am going to miss my train down to Devon. Luckily Doreen, Laura Mulvey and I catch a taxi immediately. We drop Doreen at Lamb Conduit’s Street, en route to a night’s clubbing and Laura and I chat happily as we head west. I’ve just finished teaching a course on Godard with Laura which has been a great pleasure and she reminds me that 30 years ago we had worked in Lamb Conduit Street on a Godard book. Apparently I had announced to here there that if you added Godard to Raymond Williams, that provided most of the answers. I am surprised by my own consistency and then Paddington swallows me up.


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