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

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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence