06 October 2008

Two halves for the price of one

"If you buy an Evening Standard", the assistant at WH Smith at Paddington explained to me, "you get a pound off the magazine." I was getting my monthly fix of BBC Music Magazine, of which I have only ever missed one issue (and I must get a back-copy to complete my collection), and because I took this rag that would not normally get house room my total bill went down 50p. I expressed the thought that this was bizarre, but that it had been a pleasure doing business with her.
It was a fitting end to a rather odd day. I spent a few hours in Conway Hall for the annual general meeting of the Society of Authors, where Tracey Chevalier had handed over the chair to Margaret Holroyd in the presence of about a hundred members none of whom was as celebrated as either of them.
Conway Hall featured in some of those public order cases I had to study in Criminal Law, or at least that's how I remember it: anti-Fascist rallies protesting against Mosley's Blackshirts, and later the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Hall (the rear entrance to which I passed every day on the bus when I first moved to London and commuted from Clapton to Hyde Park Corner on the 38 bus - a Routemaster in those days, of course) seems stuck in a time warp: it is definitely of an age of radical politics, where New Labour would be most uncomfortable and perhaps the New Tories more at home (though I rather doubt it, except perhaps for novelty value). Is this perhaps where I once did go to a CND meeting, and stood in the Gents at the next urinal to Monsignor Bruce Kent? I don't think I will ever be able to remember where that was, but the throwback effect from being there this evening will live with me for some time.

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