Adrian Hamilton: London begins to feel French, just as the mood changes

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Paris in the spring. It's the old cliché, of course. The plane trees coming into leaf, the cafés full of chatter. What makes it different is not just the chic. Where else can women grow old with such attitude? But it is also the light. The buildings appear to lean back, so that the sun catches the upper storeys in a way that is special in itself.

The mood this April is certainly more sombre than I have known it. The cuts in services are biting. There are more beggars. Prices have risen inexorably. But in a funny way, it seems to have made the Parisians more French, prouder of what makes them special compared with the collapsed arrogance of the Anglo-Saxon world and the wastrel ways of the Greeks and Irish.

Returning to London feels different. Not that the city isn't as beautiful. We've made a mess of the river and made it worse with the apartment blocks. The light does not have the same effect on them. But the trees, the parks and squares have nothing to apologise for. What is different in London is the sheer energy and vivacity which came with the financial boom and made every young Frenchman worth his salt want to live and work here.

Yet London has acquired something that feels rather governmental and French. Coming into St Pancras you are greeted by an enormous Soviet-style set of Olympic rings, a reminder – as if we needed it – of our status next year. I fear, as with Pompidou and Mitterrand's grands projets, it will prove out of tune with the times – fine when it was dreamed up but not now that the mood has changed. Paris may yet be pleased not to have won it.

So much for solidarity with the Japanese

I was surprised to find last week that one of my favourite lunching places, a modest Japanese restaurant in central London, has a large notice outside declaring that none of its fish came from infected waters around the stricken Fukushima plant. What was more, the restaurant assured its customers, none of its fish now came from Japanese waters at all.

Was it meant for its Japanese or its English customers? It's hard to tell, for the non-Japanese have proved anything but sympathetic to the plight of the Japanese in Japan. Many of the airlines have been stopping en route to Japan so that they can exchange crews for Japanese and take on other food before flying on to Tokyo, in the face of the reluctance of their staff to stay a night.

Can we really be so lily-livered? Nearly 13 million people live in Tokyo, yet we daren't go there. That may be a tribute to the basic fear we have of nuclear power. But it says little for the spirit of brotherhood that globalisation was supposed to engender.

Don't keep us in suspense about Sarah

Like most addicts of the Danish crime series The Killing, which has just finished its first series, we have tried to fill our Saturday evenings with the third series of the French TV crime story Spiral. It doesn't, in truth, fill the gap. Obsessed, as French cinema has always been, with an American style of gritty violence and language, it merely points up the degree of restraint and subtlety of the Danish production. In 20 one-hour episodes we saw only two bodies and then the camera did not dwell on them. In Spiral we've already had two bodies in two episodes, both shown lingeringly in their gory dismemberment.

The one thing that the two series do have in common, besides cinematography of a quality we seem to be abandoning in British crime serials, is the presence of a woman as the chief detective. We've been through dishevelled male detectives and the occasional female lead struggling with her life-work balance.

In the French series Laure Berthaud is still in this mould, although more dishevelled than any before. But Sarah Lund of The Killing was something else – a policewoman of tunnel vision who got it right only after getting it continuously wrong, and breaking personal and professional relationships in the process.

The BBC has promised us a second series of The Killing this autumn, but it won't say when. How can we plan our lives without knowing?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker