Diary Australia

London diary

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

Confirmation that we had finally left Australia’s increasingly stultifying wokeness behind came when our Qantas jet touched down in Singapore. Unlike Qantas landings on home soil, the chief steward’s welcome to the island nation didn’t include an acknowledgement of its traditional owners, let alone express his corporation’s heartfelt respect for the region’s past, present and emerging elders.

I looked around for any Singaporean elders who might be offended by this potentially egregious neo-colonial faux pas, but thankfully there didn’t seem to be any aboard.

My wife and I, meanwhile, were delighted. More than two years of border closures and lockdowns had culminated in a federal election campaign where the key issue was the temperature of the planet in 2030. Our flights to Europe two days after the election would spare us having to witness the election candidates transforming overnight from humble beseechers of ordinary people’s votes to politicians who actually do think they can control the weather.

One of the great delusions of Australian culture is that, millennia of indigenous hunting and gathering notwithstanding, our history began in 1788. It didn’t. They might have been hungry and bedraggled, but the convicts and sailors who came ashore from the First Fleet brought with them the civilising forces that would build Australia into the successful, peaceful, happy, thriving nation that leftists now love to hate. This is a shame, as there are parts of our imported history that even our wokest brothers and sisters (if I can still call them that) might appreciate.

Our first destination when we landed in London the following day was the British Museum’s stunning exhibition about Stonehenge and the Bronze Age.

The show includes the Nebra Sky Disc, a map of golden stars and moon in bronze that is about 3.600 years old and is one of the most important archeological relics in the world. Other items in the exhibition shed new light on these prehistoric tribes: they weren’t as literate as their Egyptian contemporaries building the pyramids at Giza, but they did develop a kinship to the land and seemed to enjoy life. They also were astonishingly skilful with metal, making intricate gold jewellery and cooking equipment. They even built wheels for carts.

It’s not a million miles from the pagan ideals that have underlaid most leftist politics since the 1960s but with one exception: the primitives who built Stonehenge worshipped the sun, whereas their modern counterparts think it’s going to fry us all to death. They might not have had mobile phones connected to the internet to help them reach their conclusions, but the prehistoric Europeans were, all things considered, more on the money.

We meet author and former journalist James Delingpole and his dog Daisy for a stroll through the beautiful countryside around his rural home. He is as ebullient and opinionated in real life as he is in his new occupation: interviewing the world’s leading iconoclasts and conspiracy theorists on his now famous podcast. Our conversation shifts effortlessly from the identity of the Satanic globalists poised to control the world, to poetry, fox hunting, the Reformation and which Australian journalists are most naive about the pernicious side effects of Covid vaccines.

We pop into a church built in, if I remember correctly, the 14th century. The local choir is having an informal rehearsal, but is more than happy for us to have a stroll about, James with Daisy on a lead.

He walks past this church every day, but is still enchanted by its history. He points out the cartoonish carvings on the wooden pews depicting a couple in bed, the devil whispering in a woman’s ear, a drunk on the ground guzzling from a tankard, and some reptilian creatures playing some kind of violin. James clearly thinks life hasn’t changed much since then, with the possible exception that the forces of evil are cleverer and more organised.

George Washington’s family was from round these parts, and the family’s crest (traceable to the 13th century) is still vivid in one of the stained-glass windows. The crest includes three red stars and red stripes, which was once thought to have inspired the Stars and Stripes. Sadly, this isn’t true, but the family crest still managed to get around. A week later we happened to walk past the burial place of Godfrey Washington in Cambridge, from 1729, featuring a similar crest. His relatives who sailed to America and their descendants, including George, proudly applied the crest to their valuable possessions and houses. These customs died out before they had a chance to catch on in Australia. Now we have people who identify with their skin colour or sexual preference instead. Progress!

After ten days of absorbing history in London, Cambridge and Rome, we arrive in Naples and hire a motorbike to take, for a change, a day trip to the beach at Sorrento. It’s 38C and a Sunday, so the freeways and mountain tunnels are chockers with Italians who, it turns out, had the same idea, and are insane drivers. The ride is suitably hair-raising.

Naples has a long history of being invaded and occupied by various foreign armies, and is these days predominantly run by the Camorra crime group. Some of its architectural treasures are almost as priceless as Rome’s but are being tragically neglected, although the city also has a vibrancy and parochialism that Rome hasn’t. It’s a relief not to be immersed in the safety-ism that plagues so much of the West these days.

Back in London, we visit Shoreditch, the previously dreary eastern suburb that has been transformed into a neighbourhood of brilliantly hip bars and cafes. We dine at a place called the Bike Shed, which seems to have been modelled on Australia’s Deus Ex Machina, a restaurant, cafe, barbershop and bar for people who ride cool motorcycles. The outdoor part of the restaurant has a wide gap between two rows of tables, so blokes can ride their fat Harleys and Triumphs between the diners and park in the garage at the back.

It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. We watch a group of leather-clad blokes thunder through, park their bikes and swagger over to a table only to order pots of tea. We are amused, but then realise that back in Australia even this harmless novelty would probably be deemed too risky by some faceless safety officer.

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