Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Please read the article below, particularly the part highlighted in yellow. Please feel free to leave your comments on ‘The Times Online’ website (link below)
When I was younger no Citroën Deux Cheveux or Volvo Estate parked on the streets I grew up in was complete without its smiling sunny sticker proclaiming “Nuclear Power? Nein Danke!” As emblems of radical chic went it may not have ranked with a scar inflicted during the Battle of Cable Street or a shrapnel wound from the Spanish Civil War but for Aberdeen University revolutionaries it was a necessary identifying mark - the equivalent of an MCC tie - signalling membership of a club that lived by certain unvarying rules.
Nuclear power was no more acceptable than Chilean wine (do you know what happened to Allende?), an account with Barclays (accomplices in apartheid) or a soft spot for Ronald Reagan (don't you know he's undermining the Sandinistas with his absurd demands for Yankee-style elections).

Times may change and the object of PC anathemas may subtly alter too.

Different countries may have their goods boycotted, different companies are accused of having blood on their hands, different US presidents get it in the neck for their curious belief in the absurd doctrine that people should vote for their rulers. But the basic rules stayed the same - there was a need for a left-wing demonology and nuclear power was always there in the grimoire of villainy.

Until this week. For a curious alteration has taken place. And nukes are now fashionable. Indeed, not just fashionable but thoroughly directional. The last word in chic. Irradiated isotopes have never been so on trend.

It's not an environmental thing, even though nuclear power, with its total absence of carbon emissions, ticks all the right climate change boxes.

It's not even a security thing, though the location of so much oil and gas in countries run by former KGB men or Holocaust deniers does give one pause for thought. It's actually an authenticity thing. Nuclear power has been fêted by a team of our nation's leading intellectuals for displaying contemporary Britain's most desired virtue - keeping it real.

A conclave of the bien pensants was convened this week to decide on Britain's most “authentic” place to visit. And top of the list, eclipsing Hoxton and Harlesden, Liverpool or Leeds, as the place where they kept things most real was - Dungeness. And all because of its nuclear power station. The presence of this magnificent temple to the glory of the sundered atom conferred on Dungeness a quality beyond mere charm. It became, in the eyes of the judging panel, a sort of modern Eden - a place unspoilt by pretensions or the need to look better in the eyes of others. And thus it was judged truly, authentically, beautiful. That's why they elevated it to be their top tourist destination for those who want to see authentic England.

To my horror.

Because this exposed and marshy settlement at the bottom extremity of England - with views as bleak as a building firm's balance sheet - is dear to me. I love all of East Kent, and love it indeed for its defiant unfashionability. From Dungeness to Deal, from the old mining country round Betteshanger to the Thanet towns, I feel a special fondness for this slice of overlooked England.

So, I can well understand why others would wish to celebrate its particular, stark, beauty. But I can't help fearing the fêting of Dungeness by metropolitan opinion is a prelude to a wider, “ironic” appropriation of a part of the country that is genuinely unspoilt where it counts - free of tricksy tweeness and Cotswoldian cuddliness.

So visit Dungeness please, and the rest of East Kent too. But please, no shops selling Marie Curie scented candles, Enrico Fermi pasta sauce or velvet cushions with E=mc2 embroidered in tasteful silver thread.

Otherwise I really will go nuclear.

Forgive them - I can't

One thing that has sent me ballistic this week is the decision by St James's Piccadilly to host a special service in which the words of traditional carols have been rewritten to convey an anti-Israeli message. The service is part of a broader campaign to encourage the boycott of goods from Israel, much as we once boycotted goods from South Africa.

Apart from pointing out that declining to buy things on the ground that they're made by Jewish people is not, historically, a good road to go down, I am staggered that people should equate a democracy struggling to preserve human rights in the face of terrorist assault with the apartheid regime. And I am speechless at a church's collaboration with this festival of anti-Semitism. So I shall use another's words and ask that they be forgiven, for clearly, they cannot know the enormity of what they do.

More hidden treasures

East Kent isn't the only neglected jewel I have come to love, having been drawn to it initially because it had so few other visitors. I feel the same about BBC Four.

I sat rapt the other night as it screened vintage footage from the late Forties showing how we viewed train travel in the golden infancy of British Rail. I was struck dumb by the sequence that had been shot in the buffet car. There were people puffing away on cigarettes without a second thought while the poor waiter stood by, pouring the milk into their tea and coffee. How dramatically things have changed, I reflected. Imagine a train where they give you fresh milk.