Stepping off the eurostar from London to Paris is a little disorientating, since you enter exactly the same kind of cast-iron cathedral you just left. It’s like airport fever for the 1870s.
I have to say, I’m glad to be back where nobody can pronounce my name. These days I feel absolutely foreign in London – as much as in Paris, except I don’t feel like Paris is trying to be my old buddy from I don’t even remember when. Also, there’s a type of lad in London that I could really do without; crew-cut and heavyset, reeling with beer and putting on Jamaican accents and laughing loudly about penis size on the tube – it’s a kind of free-firing intimidation looking for someone to victimize.
Apart from those lads, there is something pleasingly home-made about the kids: there’s a fashion right now for ultrashort mini-dresses and wildly-patterned tights in scarlet or turquoise – the effect is kinda punky in its got-dressed-in-the-dark disregard for colour harmony but is not at all grungy, as if they’ve looted their mothers’ old evening dresses and now can’t quite squeeze into them. While in Paris everyone on the metro is jabbering seriously in their smart black coats, looking urban and intense like they’re all in the serious corner of Columbia University’s coffee shop.
The two towns’ trains and advertising are equally crowded and stupid; I see Rupert Everett is writing for the Times, now, and affecting a journalistic stubble that rather obscures the jawline to which he owes his cultural capital. And after two days surrounded by marine art I can identify the turquoise-and-bronze palette of the Harry Potter posters as Brueghellian. I’m tired, and ready to go home. Which is, it turns out, exactly and only the house where my family are sleeping, and has no broader resonances or implications than that.